Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness
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Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  140 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Amma, universally known as "The Hugging Saint," went through a two-decade transformation from a simple fisherman's daughter to an international wonder worshiped by millions. Gail "Gayatri" Tredwell was there every step of the way—from early devotee to head female disciple, ever-present personal attendant, handmaiden, whipping post, and unwilling keeper of some devastating...more
200 pages
Published October 25th 2013 by Wattle Tree Press (first published October 22nd 2013)
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Nandakishore Varma
Mata Amritanandamayi is a household name in Kerala. Her devotees adore her: her detractors hate her: and the general public, even if they hold neutral views, cannot help being overwhelmed by the multimillion dollar industry that she has become: hospitals, engineering colleges, software companies – her empire spans a huge area. Devotees cross the seven seas regularly to sit at her feet; she crosses the seven seas to meet them at their homes across the world. And she hugs all and one who come to h...more
This was a fairly quick, engaging read. I gravitate towards spiritual memoirs of this type due to my own experiences with India, dodging the guru bullet and the doubt that lead me to leave my own path after close to 8 years. I appreciate the courage of the author to tell the truth so that others might be spared. It was because of others putting the truth out about another big time female guru that I was able to make an informed choice and just say no. Ammachi is a human being complete with the c...more
Five stars, not for the quality of the writing, but for the courage required to put such an experience to paper. That is not to say that the writing is poor - it is well above average and I spotted no glaring errors. Her observations of the differences in lifestyle are, at times, humorous to read, and at others, disheartening, especially towards the end of the book, where events take a decidedly darker turn. I must also confess that, being a strong atheist, I felt it quite difficult to empathize...more
" I was more than naive. I was hardworking(workaholic), dedicated (obsessed), determined(stubborn), and physically strong. Just imagine all those qualities teamed with a nice dose of low self-esteem- voila, the perfect "disciple" is born!" This is the most poignant line for me in the book. I started reading the book out of mere curiosity but it turned out to be much more insightful.
(Five stars for her bravery.)

Having been involved with various meditation groups for quite a few years, I am always interested in reading why others left, and it is always for the same reasons: The gurus are not what they claim to be, but for me, I also realized that neither is meditation.

Gail wanted so much to experience God so she joined Amma's group, and while it is true that you can experience God in meditation, and that it is the most rewarding experience in life, that experience does not m...more
Alfa Hisham
Good Gracious Holy Hell!!!

The book says everything mentioned in there has been described to the best of her memory. Primarily I was wondering why she took about 20 years to leave the place. Any normal person would have left earlier.

There has been a lot of questions raised regarding the authenticity of the incidents, what ever that may be, one thing I'm really convinced about is that she so knew the regional language. So well that she could figure out structural nuances in the Malayalam words.

Ron John John
First of all thanks for sharing your dreadful experience with us .I always feel very bad when see people worship these type of living God . You don't need to be brilliant to identify these living God's.
You have shared your experience with us , why can't you file a case against this lady and the man who raped you ? Now people is saying it's all false story , If you make a complaint, at least police will enquire about this and if its true they will shut down this place
Please send a compliant to...more
This is not a great literary work but an extremely personal memoir. It really serves as a cautionary tale of the guru/disciple relationship. Exploring how the lines of your identity and personal freedom can be catastrophically blurred in a quest to seek a connection with god. "The guru is in you" is an absolute truth when your done with this memoir.
Decently written. A page-turner because of the explosive details that it reveals. As for the authenticity of the details given, I'm no one to comment. As someone who has been exposed to 'Amma' very less, I'm not sure I believe in her and hence, it's easier for me to read this book with an unbiased mind. It does feel on occasions that the author had a slightly unhealthy obsession towards 'Amma' - but then that must be true for her numerous devotees too.

To be honest, I'm more amused by the fact t...more
Excerpts from the book:
My dream of finding and serving a guru had come true. But I was more than naïve. I was hardworking (workaholic), dedicated (obsessed), determined (stubborn), and physically strong. Just imagine all those qualities teamed with a nice dose of low self-esteem—voila, the perfect “disciple” is born!
Surrender of one’s will to a master is common among Eastern religions and is believed to lead the individual to “absolute” freedom. Hinduism in particular is saturated with...more
This book has had mixed reviews in India. The Amrita cult is so powerful that the book is not even available in India (no its not banned by the Govt; but its simply not available in India) I get to read the kindle version of it; and I must say that I for one truly believes in what is written there.

No where on earth can a person of theatrics can achieve so much than in a country like India. Hoards thronging to get a glimpse of such god men and women have always repulsed me to the core. Why are pe...more
I got interested in this book when it was all over the newspaper, as an indictment of Matha Amrithananda Mayi.She is one of the popular God Women of Kerala,with considerable following around the world.But the moment you start reading the book,you are sucked into it's simple narrative style,about a young innocent lady trying to find meaning in life.Gail Tredwell was only 19 yrs old when she came to India with her boyfriend at the end of 1970's.But she decides to stay on despising her empty wester...more
The first I heard about this book was when I watched an interview of Gail Tredwell on one of the Malayalam channels. There were the expected shrill and high decibel claims and counter claims from both sides.

My desire to read the book had other personal connections as well. My daughter did her UG course from a fairly prestigious college attached to the Ashram and I have heard similar murmurs about the Ashram and inmates from my husband's cousins who grew up in Vallikavu.

The book is simple in it'...more
A tell all tale shrouded in controversy.
Gail or Gayatri comes to an Indian Ashram with very romanticized ideas of spirituality, faith & devotion and seeks in "The hugging saint" - Amma an eternal guru who will guide her to being one with God.
What she does get is a real deal, a far cry from the preconceived idea of the west about the spiritual India & the saints.
The dark secrets that the author relates leaves you bitter & has the immediate affect of being judgmental of the entire "Spi...more
It's hard to say I loved this book, but it was very good. An inside look at the cult of Amachi, from someone who was with her almost from the beginning. Perhaps more than that, it is the portrait of someone who was a sitting duck for a cult. She walked in to the situation willingly with complete naivete and trust, with her critical thinking skills on hold.

I am a Western follower of an Asian religion, and Asian gurus, so I am not at all hostile to the concept of following a teacher, and yes, eve...more
I cannot write a review of this book without praising her courage. Some parts of this book were extremely shocking; no wonder why this book is not easily available in India. I grew up watching people worshiping Matha Amrithananda Mayi as an avatar. I was never a believer of human gods and always maintain a neutral view. This book creates a shock wave in India and attracted the attention of news world so easily. But somehow they suppress the discussions with their power. I pity those people who n...more
I wonder had ever IIMs done research on these guru / mata organizations. One can easily learn how to amass wealth exploiting religious beliefs.
The book precisely details as to why a disciple fails recognizing a fake guru / mata. Even without reading a single book, I had suspicion on these gurus / matas by their way of living. Now this book has given a detailed BLACK LIFE of these WHITE GURUS / MATAS.
An essential reading for every Amma devotee.
It teaches you what would happen if a normal human being sacrifices everything to serve an actor. The actor is more than able to perform the role with panache in front of an audience but the real malignant spirit of the actor can be seen behind the scenes.
Welcome to the backstage.
A must read book for anyone involved in or thinking of becoming involved in a guru-disciple relationship. A memoir written by a follower of Amritanandamayi. She was as close to a guru as anyone could be and she exposes the truth about that organization and it's guru.
It may be shocking for devotees but a convincing one for others.... It's a fine thesis on how all the belief systems prevalent in our society are being shaped and designed and why the custodians of these always go mad when some one asks a question or points a finger at. . . and more!
Abhilash Babu
I really liked it not because of the literary marvel, but because I hope such revelations will be an eye opener for people who have blind faith in the self claimed Godmen of India. Its time that we look at God and religion as historical artifacts. Its a pity that even today people fall prey to fraudsters, scamsters and self claimed God men.
Asha Vijay
The contents of the book could be true and if it is, it should reach people who are blind followers of Amritanandamayi. However, the book as such very badly written and most can do without reading it.
Prasad Kottakkal
Excellent writing and this book explains how cults works. This is a warning sign for all “Amma” followers, nobody is perfect, Amma is just a business woman in a white sari.
Latha Lokanath Pradeep
Liked the initial parts about her introduction to Indian life ............... after that whether what she has written are facts, time alone will tell.
Lakky Hari
although the read was quick and engaging and i myself being not a suporter of amma, i cannot simply believe a person stayed in such a corrupt organisation and endured abuse and was just victim for 20 years
Deepu Joseph
Quick, engaging read. I would give 5 stars simply for the brave effort that this book is.
Daring! This is a triumph of pretension over lucidity.

The plot, such as I could decipher it, is that an unfortunate young woman, Gayathri (Gail Tredwell), gets pulled into unconsciousness and has a subconscious sense of spirituality forced down her throat. It seems to make her hypnotically suggestible, during which time her mainly unseen assaulter runs her thru a series of odd exercises for Amma. Gradually she seems to return to normal, but by then she's been missing from the parallel world and...more
Asha Alex
Five stars for the courage it took to write the book.
Rupertt Wind
Interesting! Very Interesting.
Erin marked it as to-read
Jul 31, 2014
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