Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family

Rate this book
The author recounts her fourteen years of abuse at the hands of her husband, the drug-addicted eldest son of Sun Myung Moon, and reveals the corruption behind Moon's organization.

236 pages, Hardcover

First published September 2, 1998

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Nansook Hong

2 books1 follower

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
52 (24%)
4 stars
77 (36%)
3 stars
63 (30%)
2 stars
12 (5%)
1 star
5 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for Cheryl.
455 reviews4 followers
April 6, 2009
In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family is a fascinating read told by Nansook Hong, the 15 year old South Korean girl that Reverend Moon chose to marry his oldest son, Hyo Jin. Interesting insider look at the "Moonies" (Unification Church) and its leaders. Nansook describes the excesses, the abuse, and the outright hypocricy of life in the Moon family.

Nansook Hong's parents were some of the original members of Moon's church, so she was born into this world, knowing no other way to live her life. She is committed to full obedience to this second "Messiah." She struggles with inner conflicts that come as one fights with what they have believed all of their life and the damage that that belief is causing to herself and her children.

A great passage in the book is found in the end when Nansook realizes her own responsibility for her own life and gains te courage to flee the life of a battered wife:

"There is an old Korean proverb: Blame yourself, not the river, if you fall into the water. For the first time in my life, that dictum makes sense to me. I, alone, am in charge of my life. I, alone, am responsible for my actions and for the decisions I make. It is terrifying. I spent half of my lifetime ceding all decisions to a 'higher authority.' Learning to make decisions for myself means being willing to accept the consequences--the bad ones as well as the good ones." (Hong, N. In the Shadow of the Moons. (1998). Boston: Little, Brown and Company.) [pg. 234:].
Profile Image for Ian.
78 reviews8 followers
January 21, 2021
Forever grateful to Hong for sharing her story - she's helped I and a lot of other people leave this group.
Profile Image for Fab2k.
401 reviews
November 23, 2008
This was a great, quick read, though not the best memoir written. It is the true story of Nansook Hong, a woman who was born into the Unification church. She was 'summoned' by Sun Myung Moon to marry his wayward son, at the tender age of 15. Hong describes her life during those miserable 14 years as imprisonment; her only comfort being her five children that she bore all before the age of 29. It is an insightful look into the 'Moonie' cult, much of which is quite disturbing to read; domestic violence, infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse, gambling, money laundering, and outright blasphemy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My former sister in law was a member of the Moonies at one time, so I was especially interested in what their whole recruitment scheme was all about.
Profile Image for Peacegal.
9,663 reviews84 followers
March 30, 2021
This is the frightening story of one young woman's imprisonment in a wealthy and toxic cult that may be well-known to readers. Having now read several books written by female escapees of cults, it strikes me how remarkably similar a woman's experience in an extreme religious sect can be.

Interestingly, Reverend Moon had connections and camaraderie that some other cults may not. His preaching of conservative politics and "family values"--which will become even more ironic once you read Hong's harrowing story--won him the support of multiple prominent politicians, including U.S. Presidents.
Profile Image for Nathan Hurst.
65 reviews2 followers
July 27, 2018
Haunting and well-paced, among the best cult memoirs I've read.
Profile Image for Cat.
5 reviews1 follower
October 19, 2020
Like the author of this book, I grew up in this church. I haven't been actively involved in about a decade, and am still trying to make sense of my relation with it. This book seemed like an important one to read in terms of expanding my perspective.

Spoilers ahead.

Somehow I found myself being able to relate to what Nansook went through with the kinds of people who act one way in public while being something else in private. Many of us are familiar with those types of people to some degree or another, whether one is in the church or not.
But when the instigator of that form of hidden abuse is someone who many look to as a leader, as well as his family, someone with a lot of fame and power, I can't even imagine the amount of bravery it took to get out of it and go public with her experience. The experience she endured since she was only 15 is something no one should have to deal with.

I also didn't expect to read this book and come out sympathizing to some extent with the Moon children as well (although my sympathy for Nansook is obviously going to be greater), but I did. HyoJin's actions are not justifiable, but it's not so surprising that someone who grew up in such a highly controlling environment, with emotional neglect, while having the pressure of leading a public life ended up with many troubling behaviors. It's very sad to see the cycle of abuse continues and end up in this way when it is not intervened with the proper help.

Ironically, Moon is right in his teachings when he says that intergenerational trauma exists in all families. While he may archaically call it "sin", it does get passed down from generation to generation until someone is willing to to change its course. He was wrong, however, to act like such intergenerational trauma didn't exist in his family and himself, because it clearly did. He was also wrong to act as if religion is the only way to work through it, because chances are you need a bit of therapy, as well. By calling it sin and putting themselves on pedestal, they put a source of shame into the problems they had, made it into something to hide and to fester, and put an exorbitant and unrealistic pressure on themselves to be something humans can not be-perfect. By calling it sin, it demonizes people for struggling, which often times makes it worse. We can see clearly in this book the consequences of dealing with intergenerational trauma that way.

I wonder how much things could have been different with more knowledge of psychology embedded into their lives, without the pressure of calling themselves the ideal family. I also wonder how much more helpful it would've been to families who followed them , as I'm sure there are many families who also feels shame in the problems carry, hide it and let it fester even if it is not the same exact problems of a family with wealth and fame.
It is no wonder that Nansook took upon herself to study psychology after this ordeal to make sense of this situation that she was subject to.

Nansook clearly played an important role in being the whistleblower to the things that don't work in this church, that don't help with actually resolving family and individual problems, spiritual bypassing being one of those big issues. While spirituality has its place, we can see how easily it can turn toxic when it's used in the wrong ways.
By reading this book we can move forward to ask ourselves what can be done better to actually help with intergenerational trauma that families carry. Even outside of the church, domestic violence and such are high in families that have intergenerational trauma from war torn countries and such, and I see Sun Myung Moon as someone who is part of that demographic of people. Of course again, this doesn't justify abusive behaviors, however. Only one facet into insight on why it may happen. I do also believe there might be narcissism at play here, although as someone who is still coming out of the fog with this I sometimes have a hard time wrapping my head around the whole situation. Sometimes I find myself still going back and wondering if there was method to his madness. Sometimes I can't help but wonder he certainly is no average person to be able to create a whole business empire out of his beliefs. However, one thing for certain is that there is absolutely no integrity in abusing people while you do that.

It would be interesting to be able to hear an update on her perspective on all that has happened between 1998 and now with her family and with the Moon family, what her studies of psychology had revealed, among other things. I do hope her and her children are well, and I am grateful for all the valuable information this book provided.
Profile Image for Michael Hentrich.
67 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2018
This was my first time reading an entire book that completely criticized the beliefs of my own religion. In the Shadow of the Moons is written by Nan Sook Hong, former wife of Hyo Jin Moon, the eldest son of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Growing up, I’d always heard of the many criticisms people had about Unificationism. However, besides some critical blogs on the internet, this book seems to be the best way to dig up lots of dirt on the Unification Church. At this time in my life, I decided to take a look at this book. I figured that it would be a good experience even if I didn’t like it.

I have mixed feeling about the book honestly. Partly, I really sympathize with the author. She definitely seems to have gone through many challenges in her life, and it seems that she regrets many of the decisions that she made when looking in hindsight. Also, the book is well written. It was easy to read and kept me well-engaged throughout the whole book.

However, I also have seen in my own family the tendency for people to blow things out of proportion and to speak one-sidedly about a situation when talking about a person or people they feel victimized by. I know that you rarely hear the whole picture from people in those situations and half-truths are often stated to justify actions and situations.

As the book progresses, this theme becomes very prevalent throughout the book. Juicy bits (of questionable truth) have been added to make the story more interesting while truths are omitted or skewed. For example, in Michael Breen’s book on Sun Myung Moon’s early years, it is understood that Rev. Moon was arrested in North Korea for trying to use South Korean money there. This is based on an interview with Rev. Moon’s cousin, which is referenced in the appendix. Nan Sook Hong’s book states that he was arrested for using counterfeit money, with no references to where that information came from. Unfortunately, fact checking anything in her book is difficult because there are no sources provided anywhere.

Another example is that at the end of her book, she talks about the money she is trying to get from the church and how they are not wanting to give it to her. She references the relative poverty of her family, trying to make ends meet after escaping the church. Although it is not mentioned in the book, I found out later that the actual sum she was trying to get was $60 million. Also, even though she didn’t receive that, she did receive $9,000 per month, medical insurance, and unlimited education expenses for her children from what I understand. All of these facts are omitted in the book.

My opinion about this book is that the author has added many half-truths to this book, and has omitted enough information (from what I can see) to make me question the integrity of what is in there. I don’t doubt the difficulty of her experiences. There definitely is merit there, however if you take time to read a lot of the other material out there on the Unification Church (written by more objective sources), as I have, you come to wonder how much of Nan Sook Hong’s book is simply written to fit her actions and her perspective and how much of it is really based on facts.

For me, it was worthwhile to read her book just to get a more clear idea of what is out there. Without knowing those things, how can I find out for myself what is true or not? That is the way I feel about it anyway. In the end, even though I felt that it had value for me, this book felt more like reading a tabloid than an objective piece of literature.
Profile Image for Nikmaack.
612 reviews17 followers
August 28, 2013
While a little slow at the start -- covering the history of the church and some background on Rev Moon -- the book eventually picks up. Once it gets moving, it dishes insider information like nobody's business. I'm a bit of a cult fiend, looking for understanding of the phenomena, and this book delivers.

The author, Nansook Hong, was forced to married the eldest Moon son when she was 15 years old. Because of this, she had access to all the big players in the Unification Church, and provides insight into these people that no one else can.

Her story is harrowing, shocking, bizarre, and moving. While she doesn't go into a lot of depth on some of the scandals surrounding the church, she definitely adds flavour to the other books I have read on this subject.

Many other reviewers have stated the book isn't very well written -- agreed. It's not. Some content feels skimmed over quickly. Other sections feel like Hong providing facts she got off a website.

All the same, it's a fascinating read -- more a historical document or testimony than a fully-fleshed memoir. Still, well worth reading.
March 6, 2019
I really enjoyed reading this book. The story of a woman raised in a cult and married off to one of it's abusive elite. The things he did to her were vile and her escape is satisfying. The Moons cult is strange and its hard to believe that anyone would get involved with them. But Father Moon found the right combination of Christianity and superstition and sold it to a people who were hungry for something more. If you enjoy reading about cults or survivors of abuse, check out this book. It's a fascinating look into cult life and the life of a woman abused by a man who was supposed to be a god.
Profile Image for Rebecca From Florida.
384 reviews87 followers
January 8, 2019
I’m on a cult book roll and it’s honestly so shocking how similar all the cults are... for instance...
Leaders do whatever they want but followers have insanely specific rules to follow... check
Leaders isolate followers... check
If you leave, something terrible will happen to you and your family... check
Abuse in the form of physical and sexual... check
Financial fraud or weirdness... check

I can’t understand getting sucked in initially but boy, have these leaders figured out how to terrorize and isolate so people can’t leave easily...
Profile Image for Симона Дамянова.
63 reviews3 followers
November 23, 2022
Книгата е интересна и увлекателна, чете се лесно и бързо, няма излишни неща. Проследява живота на Нансук и мъките, които е преживяла. Като цяло обаче си е биография на семейство Муун, почти нищо не се разбира за истинската душевност на разказвача.
Сан Мьон Муун е корейски религиозен лидер, създал течението за Обединителната църква. Това, което проповядва е доста безумно и не знам как толкова много хора са се увлякли по тази религия. Като цяло проповядва идеята за идеалното семейство, и как не може да влезеш в рая ако не си семеен. Целта му е да създава все повече съвършени семейства сред своите последователи и така да изчисти света от греха. Естествено проповядва се въздържание от стандартните познати грехове, но най-важното е тук централната фигура, която е самият Муун. Той е месията, пратен лично от Иисус за да донесе справедливост. Дори в по-късни години се коронясва за император и проповядва, че починалият му син е изместил на небето самият Иисус, който е станал негов последовател 🙄. Дълги години след създаването на църквата си, когато се жени за почти 20 години по-млада жена, те двамата и децата им стават Перфектното семейство и са свещени, всичко се върти около тях.
Семейството емигрира в Америка и там живеят и създават огромна империя. Според историята парите, които им се даряват не са никак малко и Муун създава една огромна империя. Инвестира и се разраства, парите, които минават през техните ръце са много, много милиони. Последователите им наистина нямат никакви критично мислене, макар много от тях да живеят с тях, се правят, че не виждат нищо нередно и ги боготворят и обслужват без да проявяват непокорство и лично мнение.
Сан Муун и жена му остават в историята известни и със своите масови сватби, самият Муун избира на своите последователи брачните партньори.
Когато е още дете Хансук е определена за съпруга на Хио Джин, първородният наследник на империята, който е пропаднал пияница, комарджия и наркоман. Тя заминава за Америка с него и отново е затворена в златна клетка, длъжна да прислужва на Съвършеното семейство, да търпи обиди, бой и унижения.
Животът й никак не е лек, но в крайна сметка след доста години тя намира някак си път за бягство.
След края на книгата потърсих допълнително информация за течението на Обединителната църква и се оказа, че дори и в България е имало следа. През 2006 година на Муун е отказан достъп до България, когато той е правил обиколка по света. Даже през 2011 година България е осъдена от Европейският съд в Страсбург за правата на човека, защото полиция е нахлула в дома на един от последователите по време на сбирка на членове на Обединителната църква, това течение не е регистрирано по това време в България, но все пак решението на съда е в ущърб на държавата.
През 1991 е учреден образователен център "Логос", зад него стои Обединителната църква, той вербува доста членове, но е закрит през 1995 заради опит за убийство на 24 годишна сектантка. През 1992 и 1994 е отказано искато за регистрация на църквата, но все пак са имали последователи и течението си остава, дори има и български двойки сред организирани масови брачни церемонии от Муун.
Давам на книгата 4/5 звезди и я препоръчвам за хората, които харесват истински житейски истории :)
Profile Image for Shannon.
845 reviews
January 14, 2021
Between 3 and 4 stars, but I read books about women escaping megalomaniac cults and I want to give them 10 stars for getting the f--- out of an abusive prison of mind, body and soul. Anyway, this story by Nansook Hong was pretty well written and satisfyingly reflective. How did I not know that the Washington Times was owned by the Moonies? And their compound is in Tarrytown? Ah, anyway, this concludes my assigned research on cults which I'm happy about.
3 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2021
Equally heartbreaking and inspiring. Nansook’s accounts of the abuse she faced at the hands of the Unification Church, namely by her husband, can be hard to read but the accounts are necessary to get a full picture of the damage that can be caused by organizations like this. In a world full of exploitative true crime media, memoirs like this offer a much more human view, including the very important rationale that keeps people prisoners not just to cults but to abusive relationships in general.
Profile Image for Christine.
980 reviews
November 11, 2021
Poor Nansook, she was so innocent and so trusting. What a terrible husband she was saddled with. And the entitled, demanding, opulent lifestyle of the Moons - disgusting corruption. It’s amazing she escaped with her sanity intact.
Profile Image for Queme.
87 reviews5 followers
December 15, 2021
I have known people both who are members in the Unification Church and who are ex-members of the Unification Church. I have known people in various religions as well as people who have left those religions. One thing I can say about members is that they almost all seem very sincere and devoted. One thing I can say about ex-members is that while some are very rational, tolerant, and have positive attitudes, some ex-members are worse than the worst of the members they complain about.

The Shadow of the Moons is an absolutely fascinating book. I understand why ex-members would praise it to high heaven as the ultimate denouncement of the religion they once loved but now hate. I also understand how it is that current members have a difficult time accepting Han Sook's experiences. "Cognitive Dissonance" works in us all, whether Moon, ex-Moonie, never-Moonie, or atheist. Our biases are extremely hard to neutralize.

Some criticism of the book depend on a criticism of Nan Sook herself (that's "ad hominem") rather than an objective response to her charges, descriptions of her experiences, the shady money laundering, the hypocrisy of drugs, curses, and infidelities.

It is sad. But I see this often, not just among Moonies and ex-Moonies, but also among Jehovah's Witnesses and ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, Christians and ex-Christians, Muslims and ex-Muslims. It's everywhere. Both sides - current members and ex-members of whatever sect - believe *they* are being "objective" and the *other* side is being prejudiced. Actually, both sides are blinded to some degree by their beliefs. We all are. Don't try to deny it. If we change, it's a little bit by a little bit. Because we are not just attached to our beliefs, no matter how wrong they are, but we are *strongly*, in some cases *inseparably* attached to them. In the Shadow of the Moons, if it does nothing else, should signal to us that we should not judge too quickly, and should never be so set in our beliefs that we can only discount opposing beliefs without giving them due credit. Or, in other words, "I know I'm right!" ;)
Profile Image for Callie.
621 reviews19 followers
January 15, 2010
And who doesn't love a good how-I-escaped-the-cult book? She's no writer, but still I couldn't put it down. I am perverse. Ever heard of the Moonies? I hadn't. Their leader is a Korean guy who claims to be the new Messiah. According to him, Jesus didn't quite get the job finished, so he had to step in. He's incredibly wealthy and scarily influential with people like the former prez George Bush and Barb speaking at his functions and groups like the ACLU lobbying for his religious freedom in the USA. But it turns out he's a big PHONY, I know I know, you're shocked. This author was married to his son and lived in incredible wealth but the son of the Messiah turns out to be a real downer. Addicted to cocaine and alcohol and women, and abusive. But she gets away! This is her story....
Profile Image for Alex Lee.
894 reviews104 followers
June 21, 2016
We can't know what did or did not happen. It's a book reflecting back to one's coming awareness of what is right or wrong which comes with it an awareness of the value of one's self and of other selves. Regardless of how we feel about the truthhood of this book, there is a hard core in the belief in liberty. That one should be able to live ones life in a way that makes sense to one's self. This could be a criticism of the religion or of the culture (or both). Still, it's not easy not being moved by this trauma, which that at the very heart of the one who (appears to) know there comes with it an awesome amount of opportunity for power and greed.
Profile Image for Meredith.
7 reviews
August 4, 2008
Another fascinating look into living within, and surviving to escape- with children in tow, from a religious cult in America. The prose doesn't always flow but the fascination with the content easily makes up for it. This book provides a solid peek into the psyche of a charismatic, but flawed, self-made religious leader. More importantly it traces the mentality of the poor author as she wakens to the reality of the religious lie she is living, and how, despite the generous monetary comforts, she must get out at all costs.
Profile Image for Kitty Red-Eye.
623 reviews36 followers
December 7, 2014
A terrible story about abuse and how out of hand people can get if they're above critisism. It was just about what I expected to hear, not a memorable book, but not badly written or anything either. I wanted to see if there was anything in it about living inside an environment which allows no critisism at all, only blind submission is allowed, something on that which I hadn't read before in one way or another. There wasn't really. That's not the fault of the author. Reading about the abuse she's subject to is horrible, and it's good to know she made it out.
Profile Image for Jessica.
392 reviews29 followers
February 1, 2010
Not as comprehensive or detailed as I would have liked. I felt large portions of time were skimmed over. Also it wasn't as well written as I would have liked. I think a ghost writer or stronger editor would have benefited this book greatly.
Profile Image for Tracy.
5 reviews10 followers
September 18, 2008
Having gone to a college owned by the Moon family, I learned a lot about them. I found this book to be very interesting, giving some further insight behind the closed doors of the unification church and the family that runs it.
Profile Image for Pam.
29 reviews
March 2, 2009
An interesting read about some of the inside workings of Reverend Moon's social empire.
Profile Image for Richard.
686 reviews21 followers
September 9, 2012
Great book about Rev. Moon's ex-daughter-in-law. The moonies are everything that is wrong with the republicans wraped in one crisco corn santorum sandwich. this cult is almost to much to believe.
Profile Image for Meredith.
303 reviews7 followers
January 5, 2013
I knew the family was shady, but Holy Lifetime Movie, Batman! Creepy upon Wrong upon Yuck upon Argh!
Profile Image for Tracy.
141 reviews3 followers
June 21, 2013
pretty good. I learned about the Unification Church (aka the moonies) but overall had the same themes as every "losing my religion" book.
Profile Image for Martin  Poblete.
24 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2013
Very disturbing account of what its like growing up within the Reverend Moons family, In Yet so many worship him as a Messiah, I really don't get it
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.