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Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future
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Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future

(Girl at the End of the World #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,918 ratings  ·  259 reviews
I was raised in a homegrown, fundamentalist Christian group—which is just a shorthand way of saying I’m classically trained in apocalyptic stockpiling, street preaching, and the King James Version of the Bible. I know hundreds of obscure nineteenth-century hymns by heart and have such razor sharp “modesty vision” that I can spot a miniskirt a mile away.

Verily, verily I say
Paperback, 213 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Convergent Books
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 ·  1,918 ratings  ·  259 reviews

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Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
In the interest of full disclosure, I grew up Pentecostal Holiness ~ meaning that I grew up sharing some of the same beliefs as Elizabeth Esther {minus the baby spanking and communal living}...

Honestly, I'm not sure what I think of this book. My heart aches for Elizabeth Esther and all that she went through. And it breaks my heart that there are preachers who manipulate God's word in such a way that it has caused her and others like her so much mental, emotional, and spiritual trauma.

I can tell
Blake Atwood
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I receive many good books in my work at FaithVillage, but I don't always have time to read the ones I'm interested in. Elizabeth Esther's Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future crossed my desk not three days ago.

During a lull at work (a 30-minute system update on my Mac), I opened Esther's book and began reading, not expecting to be simultaneously enthralled by her writing and terrified by her experiences. I finished the book in short order o
R. Fisher
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Girl At the End of the World" arrived on my Kindle at 12:04am on March 18th, 2014. By 2:00pm, I had finished the entire book, and was sitting on my couch sobbing. I'm still not sure if these were tears of grief or tears of redemption. I'm starting to believe that they were both.

Elizabeth Esther tells the story of her life growing up in The Assembly, a "church" in name, a cult in reality. She tells stories of abuse and brainwashing, of confusion and heartache, of backwards thinking that had her
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Memoirs about crazy religious upbringings are usually my favorite kind, and there was no shortage of crazy in Elizabeth Esther's violent, patriarchal, fundamentalist childhood, but this memoir felt more like cobbled together journal entries than a complete, polished book. And I admit, I was disappointed to see her throw off the shackles of her former church, the Assembly, and head straight for the comforting embrace of another organized religion. I suppose, when one has lived every moment of one ...more
Laura (Book Scrounger)
I don't usually read on the Kindle, but I was introduced to this book through Elizabeth Esther's blog, so when I saw that it was on sale for $1.99 I figured it was worth saving $10 off the print version (I guess there are some perks to ebooks -- and it looks like there are still a few days left in the sale, fyi).

This is her story about growing up in a fundamentalist cult that revolved around intense end-times preparation, street preaching, child "training" (i.e. daily spankings), strict gender r
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
There is nothing but bravery in Elizabeth Esther's decision to write this book--spiritual abuse, and fundamentalist spiritual abuse at that, is unbelievably damaging, and coming out against it requires strength. She tells a blood-boiling story. The problems are near the end; her recovery seems to happen very quickly, as she falls into the embrace of Catholicism and her husband. She mentions that there are setbacks and obstacles, and does detail some of her panic attacks and flashbacks, especiall ...more
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, recommended
At first I thought this book was going to be a snarky feminist rant, but it wasn't offensive like that at all. It was troubling to read, but worth it, as it is a very important topic I think everyone needs to be informed of. Spiritual abuse needs to be exposed for what it is, and Elizabeth Esther does a great job at describing the mind numbing, bewildering and crazy tactics that cult leaders inflict on their victims. The end of her faith journey is surprising to me, in a good way. Highly recomme ...more
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: personal-account
This is the second book I read this year about someone who escaped from a fundamentalist Christian cult. The author wrote about the abuse of children, behavior control, mind control, and isolation, things common to cults. She was afraid to escape, because after all this was her whole life and her family was so entrenched in the cult. But when she married and had her own children she realized that she couldn't stay. I don't know why these stories grab my attention, but they do. How weak is the hu ...more
Holy crap this book was good. I was utterly enthralled and kept sneaking off to read for five or ten minutes at a time because I wanted to know what happened next. Elizabeth is a very strong woman and that shows in all the pages of this book. So glad she escape and that she and her husband were able to get away from all the brain washing of the cult and be a normal family.
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was powerful for me. I appreciated how she was able to honestly tell her story and the recovery work that she was able to weave through this story. Her tenacity of spirit that kept driving her towards finding something different - anything different than the cult she was in was amazing to see.
Lee Irons
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
The author is the grand-daughter of George Geftakys, the leader of a cult called The Assembly based in Fullerton, CA. I was raised in this group and knew the author (who is about 9 years younger than me) when she was a kid. Now she is an adult, a mom, a blogger, and a really great writer. Here is a note I wrote to her right after reading her book (Feb 2017):

Today I read your book, Girl at the End of the World, and I want to let you know how thankful I am that you wrote it. After I left [The Ass
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“A story of mind control, the apocalypse, and modest attire” says the back of this book. How could I resist it? Elizabeth Esther’s memoir tells of life growing up with the everyday abuses, physical and mental, of a fundamentalist cult. Regular spankings seem to have failed in their aim of breaking her will. But it’s hard to leave home, faith and family, and Elizabeth struggles to conform, firm in her conviction that she’s ugly, God doesn’t want her to be happy, and only obedience can save her.

Craig Bergland
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity, memoir
Wow, this book is simply outstanding. Although I never suffered spiritual abuse, I am well acquainted with the impact of growing up in a family rife with addiction and untreated mental illness. I could very much relate to the author’s experiences and struggle to step away and begin recovery. Everyone who has struggled to free themselves from the impact of parenting that was life denying needs to read this book. I found myself feeling like I had found a sister, and cheering her courage both in he ...more
May 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This was a super quick read. What struck me is how, once again, women are so often suppressed in fundamentalist religious groups. (It reminded me of Jimmy Carter's new book,"A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power", which he called 'his most important work', about this problem.)I was very surprised that she became Catholic after having left her family's cult. It is amazing that she had the stomach to join organized religion at all, after an upbringing like hers. I do admire that s ...more
I am surprised by people who couldn't put this down - I *had* to keep putting it down, because the environment she was raised in was so, so terrible in spots.

But (as you figured out from the title), she made it out. And seems to have survived well, which seems miraculous. I can't even imagine how hard that must be. I have to admit, I was super impressed she's still married to a guy she met there; I would think it would be tough for him to overcome that.

Fascinating. A harder read than the gentle
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Beatifully written, quick read. Elizabeth is born into a fundamentalist cult, and therefore grows up knowing nothing but fear, intimidation, and submission. Though she wants to escape for many years, the familiarity of the lifestyle, and the love she has for her family keeps her from escaping. She marries another member of "The Assembly", and together they leave and start a new life. I found her healing process very interesting, if not unexpected. I have so much respect for her, I cannot imagine ...more
Leigh Kramer
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was nearly impossible to put this one down. While I had questions at times- wanting more information about particular stories, for instance, I think she did a remarkable job of sharing her memories, while honoring her family and respecting the wishes of people who perhaps did not want to be included. I would advise caution if you've come out of a fundamentalist background. For me, it was eye-opening and heartbreaking to learn what EE went through at The Assembly. Proud of her for sharing her ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very well written. I am fascinated by religion and the people who practice all religions. Elizabeth's experience was difficult to read about at times. I found myself making audible gasps and comments through out. I am so happy for Elizabeth and especially her children.
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
This memoir was interesting, but the writing quality is completely lacking. Either tell a more compelling and unique story, or tell this story more skillfully.

Rebecca Monhollen
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-books
I love books by people who have left fundamentalism. Everyone who’s grown up in fundamentalism has their own brand of crazy they can talk about; Elizabeth’s story is no different. I am surprised she was able to forgive her parents at the end. I am still trying to forgive everyone who kept me in fundamentalism and my story is nowhere near as horrific as hers. It’s also interesting to me where she ended up from a religious standpoint. I would’ve thought she would’ve ended up anti organized religio ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the true story of Elizabeth Esther who grew up in a very physically and mentally punishing religious cult and the efforts she took to try and remove herself from their influence. Very compelling and inspiring!
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“You shouldn’t have to choose between asking questions and being considered rebellious” - great encapsulation of this book. I relate to so much.
Elizabeth Flygare
I have heard horror stories about daily spankings, ("the sword of the Lord,”) starting when children are six months old. I have read about the fear of being "left behind" (when, not if) Armageddon happens, and families who have meeting spaces in case the Rapture occurs and they are "arrested by the Antichrist." I’ve heard all about the modest clothing, the practice of "courtship" (arranged marriages) in place of dating; in short, the self-flagellating, terrified affect carried around like giant ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: real-life
I felt trapped nearly the whole time I read this book. Interesting, but uncomfortable. Also difficult because this cult (The Assembly) is a spin-off of Christianity. So there are lots of twisted truths in here. Unfortunately, I think most of main stream media thinks all Christians are like this cult. It was a good read but difficult.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
A true story of courage and change.

Elizabeth grew up in a family of Christian fundamentalists, a group founded by her grandfather called The Assembly. While in many ways, her family probably seemed normal to the outside world--they didn't go off and live in a compound, for instance--her life completely revolved around the strict rules and punishments of their church. Her parents gave her spankings that bruised, with a paddle, well into her teens as punishment for her sins. One of her biggest fea
Katie/Doing Dewey
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Summary: This was a difficult story with simple writing, but I appreciated the nuanced discussion of the good and bad parts of religion.

Elizabeth Esther was raised in a fundamentalist family. She was raised to be prepared for the apocalypse; to obey her parents and her husband; and to ignore her own desires. They enforced these rules with pretty brutal spanking into her teens. Even as stress began to make her seriously ill, she couldn't bring herself to leave. Only having children of her own mad
Christie Hagerman
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I plowed through this book in record time. The author's free-flowing, conversational style makes reading her story feel like she's my best friend sharing about her past at a pajama party while I hug my pillow. Except I didn't feel like sleeping when I turned that last page. I wasn't sure if I wanted to cheer for the fact that Elizabeth escaped or vomit to think about what she'd been through. More than once while reading, I was thankful that the title of the book alerted me ahead of time to the f ...more
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
Couldn't put this one down, and I started it on a day where I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms.... so I finished it in one day! She is a wonderful writer who knows how to capture her experience in words, and leaves you smiling and sometimes laughing as well. Given the serious subject - she is the granddaughter of the founder of an abusive Christian cult, now disbanded - it was not only educational and challenging, but also surprisingly entertaining and uplifting. She paints you a compelling ...more
Haley Keller
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Girl at the End of the World's synopsis caught my eye, and I was intrigued. However, I wasn't expecting to become as enthralled by the book as I did. Girl at the End of the World is the story of the author's experiences growing up in a Fundamentalist Christian cult. I'm not going to lie, the cult part was what caught my eye. I don't have personal experiences with cults, but the cult mentality is something that I find both fascinating and horrifying.

Fascinating and horrifying is a good way to des
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sarah by: R. Fisher
Oh, this story. I could not put this memoir down. My heart ached all the more with every single turn of the page. I will never be the same, now that I have had a glimpse into the reality of what cult-life and religiosity and harm inflicted in the name of God looks like.

I can honestly say that I would not have been able to contain my weeping had I not (thankfully) known that EE had already been totally removed from her previously cult-saturated home life. That said, this painfully eye-opening me
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Elizabeth Esther is the author of "Girl at The End of the World: my escape from fundamentalism in search of faith with a future." A longtime, award-winning blogger, Elizabeth's other articles have appeared in TIME, Christianity Today, Religion News Service, Mothering Magazine, OC Family and The Orange County Register. Elizabeth is a mother of five and lives in Southern California with her family.

Other books in the series

Girl at the End of the World (2 books)
  • Spiritual Sobriety: Stumbling Back to Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad

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“Disassociation. It is a word I have heard before but never in reference to that mind trick I had used to cope. That trick isn't a figment of my imagination. It was real. It had a name. And if the coping mechanism was real, it means what I have experienced was real too.” 1 likes
“It has taken nearly a decade to realize that living frantically isn’t, in fact, a virtue. Or healthy. To” 1 likes
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