"À la Tara Westover's Educated, Scorah's pensive, ultimately liberating memoir chronicles her formative years as a Jehovah's Witness...and captures the bewilderment of belief and the bliss of self-discovery."--O, The Oprah Magazine, Named one of "The Best Books by Women of Summer 2019"
"Scorah's book, the bravery of which cannot be overstated, is an earnest one, fueled by a plucky humor and a can-do spirit that endears. Her tale, though an exploration of extremity, is highly readable and warm."--The New York Times Book Review
A riveting memoir of losing faith and finding freedom while a covert missionary in one of the world's most restrictive countries.
A third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Amber Scorah had devoted her life to sounding God's warning of impending Armageddon. She volunteered to take the message to China, where the preaching she did was illegal and could result in her expulsion or worse. Here, she had some distance from her community for the first time. Immersion in a foreign language and culture--and a whole new way of thinking--turned her world upside down, and eventually led her to lose all that she had been sure was true.
As a proselytizer in Shanghai, using fake names and secret codes to evade the authorities' notice, Scorah discreetly looked for targets in public parks and stores. To support herself, she found work at a Chinese language learning podcast, hiding her real purpose from her coworkers. Now with a creative outlet, getting to know worldly people for the first time, she began to understand that there were other ways of seeing the world and living a fulfilling life. When one of these relationships became an "escape hatch," Scorah's loss of faith culminated in her own personal apocalypse, the only kind of ending possible for a Jehovah's Witness.
Shunned by family and friends as an apostate, Scorah was alone in Shanghai and thrown into a world she had only known from the periphery--with no education or support system. A coming of age story of a woman already in her thirties, this unforgettable memoir examines what it's like to start one's life over again with an entirely new identity. It follows Scorah to New York City, where a personal tragedy forces her to look for new ways to find meaning in the absence of religion. With compelling, spare prose, Leaving the Witness traces the bittersweet process of starting over, when everything one's life was built around is gone.
In her impressive debut, Scorah recounts her years as a Jehovah's Witness in China, her decision to leave the faith, and her ongoing spiritual questioning. In 2005, Scorah and her husband left Vancouver for Taipei before volunteering to move to Shanghai, where being a Jehovah's Witness could get them deported. There, they worked as English teachers and private tutors, covertly preaching their doctrines of impending apocalypse to Chinese citizens and expats they meet. Eventually, Scorah found a job working on a podcast, and through her work and interactions with a man she met online, she began to question her religion. After revealing the intimate friendship to her husband, Scorah decided she needed to leave him and was shunned by her family and friends. Scorah's prose is straightforward, and she has a winning sense of humor about how much she's changed: "We gave up any hope of a career all for the sake of saving these people, and goddammit no pun intended we were very concerned about their destruction." Scorah provides a rare glimpse into the insular world of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and her accounts of expat life and leaving her faith should give this candid memoir wide appeal.
Once I started reading I couldn’t stop. I’ve learned over the years, after much soul searching, that organized religion is not my thing. Granted I wasn’t brain washed like the author, but I definitely had to find my own way.
Enlightening and riveting
This books provides a glimpse of the inner workings of this insular organization.
Leaving the Witness is a coming of age memoir in the tone of a detective story and an expose, with a love story providing one of the key narrative threads. Amber spent several years embedded as a missionary in China for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In China, organized religions are banned, so she and her colleagues had to execute their work quietly, using code phrases and secret meeting locations. In a country where thought itself is restricted, the author finds the freedom to reflect on the cult that she has dedicated her life to, and chooses to leave, facing abandonment by all members of her family and her friends.
Amber writes very clear and unembellished prose, allowing the fascinating details of her life to speak their own truth. Despite the weighty and emotional content, the regular humor and levity in the writing makes the book highly entertaining reading.