4 out of 4 stars
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Aren’t kids’ brains like sponges which soak up anything, be it values or impressions of the world? For good reasons, at eight, Liz knew she wanted to be just like her dad—a skilled, respectable, and compassionate man. Pitifully, though, after losing him, the next person to make her happy anew was her first boyf, Joe. Unbelievably, before long, Joe passed away, as well; as she describes her experiences then, it was like half of her had been ripped apart and her dreams extinguished.
The book The Cult Next Door: A Manhattan Memoir by Elizabeth R. Burchard and Judith L. Carlone brings up the circumstances that’d make a highly educated young woman join a cult. It goes further to describe the authors’ harrowing experiences under the cult. Nonetheless, what’s remarkable is that Liz didn’t decide to join a cult; this is because she didn’t even know she was in one, or that there was even such a thing as a cult, for that matter.
In hindsight, then, it dawned on me just how much our close friends or family members can make or break us, especially in instances where the necessary support system is lacking. A case in point is Liz’s mom: the reader will be surprised to learn of her whereabouts while her daughter was wallowing in cult instigated misery.
Although I can’t divulge much on Liz’s mom without spoilers, the antagonist, on the other hand, is one for the books. George Sharkman starts as a polite and intelligent technician, who works in a stress reduction practice owned by Dr. Keith Rogers. As the popularity of Dr. Rogers’ clinic increases, George becomes bolder and inventive in his manner with the patients. In the twinkling of an eye, without his “patients” smelling a rat, George becomes an energy vampire incarnate—arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. Indeed, to Liz, he comes across as a “welcome distraction from the black hole in” her soul.
There is a lot of fluidity in how the events depicted in this novel unfold. This makes the plot fast paced and ascertained to keep the readers on the edge of their seats. Besides, the writing is rich in vocabulary and showcases the authors’ flair in other languages, especially French.
Without giving anything away, amid an aggrieved tone, Liz painfully writes that she wanted her twenty long years of servitude to George back. Interestingly, when Carlone, the co-author, rescued her, she clung to her like a lost child. So, to say, it wasn’t lost on me on how realistic raw emotions were portrayed by the authors. I found the emotions of the incidents depicted too strong not to find myself empathizing with the victims concerned. Additionally, the authors did well to present their real-life experiences chronologically, running from December 1971 to June 2008.
As I finish, for a few reasons that follow, I won't hesitate to recommend this book to as wide an audience as possible. Firstly, for a novel covering such a long period, it’s exceptionally well-edited, as I didn’t come across a single error whatsoever. Secondly, in the news, it’s common to hear of a cult hurting or even killing people as a result of its transgression; as in Liz’s case, it starts innocently, and yet its ramifications are far-reaching. So, I recommend the book to the general readership, irrespective of age.
Lastly, for the compelling story it is, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. The book may be less suited, even so, to sensitive readers because of sections that depict some bizarre practices. Many of these practices form part of a religious ceremony or spiritual experience.
The Cult Next Door
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