Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “To the Moon and Back: A Childhood Under the Influence” as Want to Read:
To the Moon and Back: A Childhood Under the Influence
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

To the Moon and Back: A Childhood Under the Influence

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  169 ratings  ·  32 reviews
The best seats Lisa Kohn ever had at Madison Square Garden were at her mother’s wedding, and the best cocaine she ever had was from her father’s friend, the judge.

Lisa was raised as a “Moonie”—a member of the Unification Church, founded by self-appointed Messiah, Reverend Sun Myung Moon. As a child, she knew the ecstatic comfort of inclusion in a cult and as a teenager the
Paperback, 242 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Heliotrope Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about To the Moon and Back, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about To the Moon and Back

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  169 ratings  ·  32 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Barbara Carter
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book because it shows the negative undertones of not only being in a cult, but part of any religion that prevents the asking of questions, and ruling by fear. Lisa shows us the struggle of breaking away from such control.
I relate to those feelings and the fear of being “bad” of not pleasing God. I recall such thoughts attending Lutheran church with my family.
But I was a curious child, and something inside me just couldn’t keep believing it at face value. Once the questions and sear
Dawn Wells
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a read. An inside look at the moonies the cult we heard about ages ago and thought was to far out to be real. Well, I guess it’s real and far out but not in a good way. This was so well written it was hard to put down and hard to believe.
Lolly K Dandeneau
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
via my blog:
'At first I had no idea that anything was wrong with my childhood.'

I have a vague memory as a very young child and a newscast of a lot of people marrying one another (strangers to each other) in Madison Square Garden, and my parents mumbling something about it being ‘crazy’. I was a kid, dazzled by the many brides so when reading this memoir about the Unification Church (which some still call the Moonies and consider a cult) it clicked that this
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this solid, brutally honest memoir by a former member of the Unification Church, popularly known as the Moonies, Lisa Kohn shares the story of her tumultuous youth, growing up in the 1980s and 90s among the church's inner circle, the so-called Messiah, Sun Myung Moon, and his family. 

When Kohn was a little girl, her young mother dabbled in various cults and philosophies in search of meaning and simple answers. What she found within the Unification Church clicked and she soon brought Lisa and
Carol Schindler
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A Story of Courage and Love

Lisa Kohn wanted two things in her childhood, to love God and to be with her mother. When her mother chose God instead of Lisa and her brother, the conflict begins, but by this time Lisa is a whole-hearted believer in “The Principle”. Lisa’s desire to do the right thing, her confusion as the adults in her life take advantage of her, and her struggle for self confidence and self love make this one hell of a compelling story. Her struggle with abuse, addiction, and aband
Anne Wellman
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Lisa Kohn's childhood was spent in the shadow of the Moonies when her mother joined the cult and abandoned her children, leaving them to the tender mercies of their alcoholic father. The author's writing is strongest when describing these painful early years away from her mother, and how her need for love led her to embrace the Moonies as an alternative source. However, Lisa Kohn was only on the periphery of the cult, never fully drawn in, and there is little real insight into its workings - in ...more
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-my-shelves
Very interesting non-fiction read about a woman who grew up during the seventies as part of the Moonies religious group. Fans of The Glass Castle will enjoy this book. I had no idea about the Moonies and this was an interesting insight into this religious group. Thank you to the author for the free book.
Jesse Jackson
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Real and heartfelt

Lisa shares her childhood with an unbelievable honesty. Events she experienced are horrible to read but share with a calm factual manner. My heart ached for Lisa as a child and it soared when I read about the amazing woman, mother and wife she becomes. The book is fascinating and a wonderful read.
I downloaded this freebie for my Kindle. This is a first person account of a life inside a cult or church - the Unification Church or moonies as they were called back then. Yes, Lisa had it rough growing up and I'm glad she ended up with what seems like a good life. I thought it would be informative and possibly a great, if not good, read. It was neither one. It was boring and the way it was written was like reading a Dick and Jane book. I know, I know, I am dating myself with Dick and Jane. It ...more
Lara Lillibridge
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
If you have ever felt as if you don’t belong, this book is for you.

If you have ever felt as if you have to twist and turn to get your parents’ attention, this book is for you.

If you have struggled with self-destructive behavior in an effort to mitigate emotional pain, this book is for you.

Lisa Kohn’s memoir about growing up in Reverend Moon’s Unification Church startles with its clear descriptions of an unusual life, but it is her ability to dial down to the underlying confusion and emotion of
Susan Liebermann
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As an ex-member of the Unification Church, I am so grateful to Lisa for sharing the story of her struggle for freedom, sanity, forgiveness, and compassion. It takes a lot of courage to bare one’s soul to the public. She’s done a fine job of guiding the reader through her painful but rewarding process. When I finished reading it, I felt relieved of a burden I didn’t even realize I was carrying: feeling alone with my own story of leaving the church. This book has earned a permanent place on my boo ...more
Rubery Book Award
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shortlisted for the 2019 Rubery Book Award

This is a memoir written by a woman who was drawn into the Unification Church (the Moonies) as a child by the involvement of her mother. She occupied a privileged position in the heart of the church, enjoying a special status amongst their people of influence, making friends with the treasured, revered children of their leader. The book paints a powerful portrait of how she become part of the organisation, a result of growing up in a dysfunctional family
Christie Grotheim
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lisa Kohn's memoir really resonated with me. Her troubling childhood growing up as a member of the "Moonies" cult was honest and well-described, and her unique voice came through. Clearly written and well-paced, I couldn't put it down. As heartbreaking and horrific as her mother abandoning her (and her brother) for the church was, her journey toward healing was in equal parts uplifting. I especially liked how the book came full circle when she was able to embrace some of the members of the churc ...more
Helen Cargile
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lots of people are born into dysfunctional families- Lisa Kohn among them. Despite that, she does an admiral job navigating her way through a life with divorced parents who are both too busy doing their own thing to pay much attention to Lisa or her brother. Her dad is a hippie drug addict, her mother a devout Moonie (as in the Unification Church). Her upbringing is far from “normal”, but she tries to find happiness wherever possible. The emotional toll it all takes is the real challenge, especi ...more
Cheryl Almstrom
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Always amazes me that In a time when we as a society have so much.....and children around us, close to us, have so little and struggle to be normal, (normal in their eyes), and at times do not even realize or acknowledge that they have been dealt an injustice in their love, nurture and care, not only by their parents, but by society in general.
This story displays the fortitude of one little girl and her brother that beat all the forces against them and how they somehow survive and triumph to a
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lisa Kohn’s “To the Moon and Back” pulled me into the chaos and pain she endured as a child but left me filled with the hope and love she exudes as an adult. I recommend this book to (1) anyone who is curious about brainwashing and the inner workings of one of the most ‘successful’ cults of the 1970s, (2) anyone brave enough to feel the pain of being a child of a drug addicted bartender parent on the lower east side in the 1970s and early 1980s, (3) anyone who has ever felt isolated, misundersto ...more
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A brave and fascinating memoire by a woman whose parents were young and, I'm being kind, not really parent material, in addition to being young when they became parents, layered into Moonie culture and church. I give lots of props to the author for baring all in a generous way and for all the work she's done as an adult to get her head screwed back on straight. Tough reading and not always smooth writing, but certainly real. I think it's an important book about parenting and what one as a parent ...more
Stephanie Tubman
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I was very moved by Lisa's story. This is a raw and honest accounting of the influence of our parents on our lives, for better and for worse. It is also a chronicle of one family's experience inside the Unification movement. I appreciated that this book did not tie up all the loose ends neatly. I was left with as many questions as answers about her parents and why they parented the way they did. This book well captures the messiness of life and the pain, hope, shame, and joy as well. If you enjo ...more
Katherine Krige
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Think your childhood was challenging? It might have been, but can you imagine growing up in a cult? Or even worse, splitting your time between a Moonie Mother and druggie Dad? That is the climate that Lisa Kohn found herself in during her formative years, and you better believe it left some scars. Between desperately seeking her mother's approval and hiding from unwanted attention from her father, it is no wonder that Lisa ended up with a whole lot of angst, low self-confidence, poor relationshi ...more
Janilyn Kocher
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To the Moon and the Back is a roller coaster ride. Alley cats were better parents than Kohn's. Her mother walked away from her kids so she could devote herself to a new consuming religion. Her dad did allow them to live with him, but it was in squalor. Kohn eperienced an eating disorder, drug usage, and unhealthy relationships. Her theme is healing. By the end of her memoir, she's found stability and peace with her murky upbringing. Thanks To NetGalley for the advance read.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a captivating read about coming of age as a moonie in NY and the NYC area. It is a shattering memoir of a childhood gone awry by some very "different" types of parents. One abandoned her children to join the Moonies and the other with his drinking and drug habits was not so great either. It is ultimately about healing as that comes later in the author's life as she deals with the aftermath of her wild childhood.
Jayme Johnson
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating story about a woman coming of age in 1970s NYC living in two diametrically opposed worlds -- the world of her mother, a member of the religious Moonies cult, and her father, a world of drugs & sex. It's a wonder that Lisa grew up to be a normal, functioning, accomplished adult! Great read for anyone interested in cult culture, 1970s NYC history, or a young woman trying to make sense of it all.
Patty Ramirez
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love books about cults. This one did not disappoint!

Even though I love memoirs, they sometimes get a little boring and I find myself skipping parts. Did not do that with this book. Lisa’s story was engaging and I found myself always wanting to read more.

Thank you NetGalley, the author and publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's hard to imagine growing up as author did, being neglected and I would day abused by her parents, all in the name of religion. Sad to read, heartbreaking and just plain wrong. Thanks to author for personally emailing me and letting read this book. Great work.
While I got the book for free,it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
Lizzie Sharples
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of Lisa Kohn’s To The Moon and Back. The rating and review are my own thoughts and opinions, and have not been influenced by receiving this book to read.

This book was an amazing insight into the weird world of the moonies. Lisa Kohn tells her story in a brutally honest way and we are taken along for the ride. This is particularly affecting as her view seems to be pretty much front row as she plays with the ’true family’, the cult lea
William Poe
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can vouch for the trauma, since I was a member of the group too. Nice intimate account of an experience that many will not experience, but that everyone can learn from. Religious extremism is dangerous - just look at the terrible cults Moon's children are forming (worshiping with assault rifles, for instance).
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is incredible. Moving, haunting but always hopeful and optimistic, despite some crazy circumstances for a child (and an adult). I found myself asking questions about my own childhood as well as my own journey to happiness. Lisa's story is so incredibly unique, but the learning and growing lessons are for everyone. She's a special person with a special story. Read it. :)
lindsey simmons
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

What a truly amazing read.Would recommend to anyone. This book opened my eyes to the differences in religions and "cults" Lisa is a courageous person. Who only ever followed what she thought was the right path. Which eventually that's exactly what she walked.
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Accessably Honest

This is a brave account of Lisa's experiences. It's honest in depth and breadth. I believe it has the potential to be widely relatable. A great read for anyone who appreciates non-fiction written in the first person.
Madeleine Black
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lisa Kohn shows us in her powerful memoir that it is possible to find peace and contentment despite having a rocky, unstable, and often confusing childhood
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Circles Around The Sun: In Search Of A Lost Brother
  • Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country
  • Chinese Lessons: An American mother teaches her children how to be Chinese in China
  • Sun Shine Down: A Memoir
  • Alexis: My True Story of Being Seduced by an Online Predator
  • Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Amibition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind
  • Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans
  • What My Mother and I Don't Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence
  • A Book of Untruths
  • A Light in Dark Places
  • Flesh and Blood: A History of My Family in Seven Maladies
  • The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes
  • Staying: A Memoir
  • Messages from My Father: A Memoir
  • My Father Before Me
  • Southern Fried Fiction: How The Insidious Onset Of Depression Derailed A Successful Man's Life
  • Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History
  • One to the Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer
See similar books…
People ask me where I’m from and while I will mention the town in which I now reside, I always quickly add that I’m “from” New York City. Truthfully I was born in New Jersey and lived mostly there for the first twelve years of my life, but New York City is where my heart and identity reside. I am a New Yorker. An East Villager. From before it was cool – when it was just seedy and scary. When there ...more