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A River Could Be a Tree

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  152 ratings  ·  27 reviews
How does a woman who grew up in rural Indiana as a fundamentalist Christian end up a practicing Jew in New York? Angela Himsel was raised in a German-American family, one of eleven children who shared a single bathroom in their rented ramshackle farmhouse in Indiana. The Himsels followed an evangelical branch of Christianity—the Worldwide Church of God—which espoused a doo ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Fig Tree Books LLC
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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Elyse  Walters
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Angela Hemsil’s memoir I learned more about Fundamentalists Christianity - in detail - from Angela’s childhood -the evangelical branch of Christianity - The World Wide Church of God - that I may ever want to know in a lifetime.

Angela was raised in Indiana- a German American Family. She was one of 11 children. Their family lived in rented ramshackle farmhouse with only one bathroom.

We get a lot of family background about each of her parents & grandparents....and a close inside look at the fa
From rural Indiana and an apocalyptic Christian cult to New York City and Orthodox Judaism by way of studies in Jerusalem: Himsel has made quite the religious leap. She was one of 11 children born to a Catholic and a Lutheran, both of German heritage, and grew up in the Worldwide Church of God. This was an apocalyptic cult whose charismatic leader was later exposed for financial and sexual peccadilloes – a trajectory that reminded me very much of the Exclusive Brethren story line in Rebecca Stot ...more
Jessica Pratezina
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about what happens when you can’t go home again. It’s about losing the faith of childhood, going on a journey, and finding home in a surprising place.

This is a thoughtful, kind and intellectual retrospective on a long journey. Angela was raised in an intense, world-rejecting fringe religion in small town Indiana. Over the course of many years, her world expands to the point that her faith must transition into something new. This story is about the complex relationships between par
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Angela Himsel's book came into my life at a time when I was searching for the spirit in my life, much as she was. As I followed her journey through Southern Indiana, to college, to the middle east, and on to New York City I found parallels to my own journey. I believe we all seek a balance between our spiritual side, however we describe it, and the world we live in. Angela lovingly depicts life in her family of origin, the friends with whom she bonded through college and her travels, and her fin ...more
Ryan S
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting read. I was a classmate of Rachel, her youngest sister. It was interesting to read the snippets describing my hometown and the somewhat quirky people of Jasper and Ireland.

As a book, it is a pretty standard faith journey, if you are into that kind of thing. I appreciated that while it was religiously based, it never felt preachy.
Alice  Heiserman
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
My rating is off kilter because the first half of the book was interesting and would rate at least four stars. The author explored her faith as a fundamentalist Christian who grew up in a large family in Indiana, and this part of the book that raised philosophical and theological questions was reminiscent of Tara Westover's Educated. The questioning that brought her to study in Israel and question her premises about salvation was interesting. However, after she meets a rabbi's son, her intellect ...more
Gil Roth
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
You can find my podcast conversation with the author at ...more
Jill Crosby
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Some people Play pretty fast and lose with the term “cult.” I bought into this book believing the author was a member of a cult, where “getting free” meant leaving home & family, adapting to a life on the “outside,” and maybe searching for a purpose beyond that.
The “cult” this author belonged to seemed to me to be basically just another get-rich-quick charlatan-run organization that somehow seem to plague Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. There’s an old dude who is the leader, one who pro
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sometimes a person’s cultural identity is set when they’re very young. These people feel comfortable within the personal/religious/national identification offered them by family and the surrounding culture. Others struggle with their identities – exploring different options in order to find a place that feels like home. The writers of two recent memoirs belong to this second category: Ilana M. Blumberg examines how her experiences as a teacher led her to move her family to Israel in “Open Your H ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a fundamental Christian, a believer in Christ & the Holy Bible, I found reading this book to be a page turner in being hopeful that Angela would finally understand the simplicity of becoming a Christian. Not based on legalistic ideas of doing good works, wearing certain clothing, no make- up, required church attendance & giving, searching for the Holy Spirit, and especially not following a cult leader and founder of the Worldwide Church of God, led by a deceptive man, Herbert W. Armstrong. Fi ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
I always enjoy books of people being raised in extreme religions/cults and getting out and what their lives are like both before and after. I had listened to the Heaven's Gate podcast so was super interesting in the Worldwide Church and Orthodox Judaism is a topic I have always found fascinating so this book was 100% a natural draw for me when I heard about it but somehow the writing fell a little flat for me. I enjoyed it because it was topics that are interesting to me but I didnt care about A ...more
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A friend recommended this book. It was an interesting memoir of a Christian woman who slowly questions the faith she's raised within and ultimately converts to Judaism. The views of her upbringing in a cultish offshoot of apocalyptic Christianity was interesting. The descriptions of her conversion classes were brief and there's little about how she grows within her Jewish life after conversion.

I'd still recommend this book, but it's not what I expected.
There's an interesting forward by Shulem D
Sid Knopp
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is quite an astonishing story. Angela Himsel writes beautifully and you can really picture the vastly different worlds of growing up in a Fundamentalist Christian cult in Indiana, Israel with its mixture of so many cultures and beliefs, Germany, the country of her ancestry and New York, another boiling pot. Her search to find meaning leads her to Judaism which she approaches in a level headed way leaving behind the fanaticism of her upbringing.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Disclosure -- I know Angela as she is a member of our synagogue. I knew she was a convert but never knew this whole story which is beyond fascinating. Her religious knowledge is amazing and her journey is an eye-opening experience for people of all faiths. Her ability to share her thoughts and experiences was a beautiful read and experience.
Kacie Wielgus buzzard
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I decided to read this book because the author is doing a reading, locally, in a few weeks. I was surprised by both differences and similarities of this book and Educated.

I appreciated how eloquently and transparently the author shared her personal and spiritual journey.

There were few parts of the book I found myself merely skimming but for the most part I was fully engaged.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, this unusual memoir follows Angela, a girl from Indiana in a fundamentalist cult like Christian religion, through her eventual embrace of Judaism. Not just interesting, but thought provoking and spiritually conscious.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just happened upon this book at the library & it was exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you so much Ms. Hinsel for sharing your honest journey with faith & religion. It was wonderful to read.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoy Jewish journey memoirs. It wasn’t until I was a few pages from the end that I realized I know the author’s daughter! Small world!
Esther Amini
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating memoir: honest, open, and deeply compelling. I could not put the book down.
Hina S
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 actually
Suzette Tanen
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read it over Shabbat, a fascinating memoir.
Donna Testa
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the easy to read writing style. The story was good. I knew early on where it was going but felt compelled to hear how the transformation happened.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
Fascinating memoir about a woman raised in a strict cultish Christian church, who ultimately converted to Judaism.
Rebecca Wolin
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard the author speak prior to reading the book. It was interesting. I would recommend it
Dahlia Japhet
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written memoir. Angela is a born author and events flow naturally in this memoir.
Melodie Gill
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A personal journey spanning from childhood to marriage with children, A River Could Be A Tree A Memoir, is an inclusive weave of life to death padded with the astonishing revelations of growing up “cult-ish” in Southern Indiana. The conflict of abandoning that deep-rooted faith was troublesome for Angela even when the disconnects became obvious and her searching spirit, intellect and courage led and embraced her with the Jewish culture. Perhaps even more astonishing for me...were the unveiling o ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and pleasant read

Angela’s journey was personal and educational for the reader who can always learn some from another persons experience. A recommended read for anyone interested in personal journeys
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seema goldbergh
rated it it was amazing
Aug 07, 2019
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