Elizabeth Esther grew up in the real world version of Doomsday Preppers. Where average children grow up with fire escape plans and a few days emergency food stash for “just in case”, she was shown a hidden family meeting place and was instructed to zig, zag, and double back as much as possible on the way in order to throw the Anti-Christ and his hounds off their family’s trail. They had food and supplies stashed away in their house (though how that would help if they also had to run away isn’t explained, and may not have even been considered), not for the usual reasons of potential flood, earthquake or other natural disasters, but because when the Anti-Christ takes power, no one without the Mark of the Beast will be able to buy or sell food or goods.
Once Elizabeth reached her teen years, she wasn’t permitted to date just anyone that she chose. Instead, she was expected to participate in parent guided courtship- a slightly less restrictive version of an arranged marriage. How she dressed was decided by her family, and free time was something that didn’t exist.
All of this may seem like a bad novel, but for Elizabeth Esther and many women and men who were raised in The Assembly and other churches with similar beliefs it was not only real, but it ruled her life.
Girl At The End Of The World is a beautifully and engagingly written memoir of Elizabeth Esther’s childhood and early adulthood while being the daughter and granddaughter of the high profile leaders of The Assembly in Southern California. For some, it’s an entrancing glimpse at a conservative theology and lifestyle that is both more modern and at times more controlling than the Amish who fascinate so many. For others, it’s another way to try to get inside the head of Doomsday Preppers or to enjoy in the same way that some enjoy watching Hoarders. For others, it’s a healing expose of the damaging way that they were raised. And for some who, like me, were raised on a steady diet of eschatology, it could be a little triggery. In fact, though Girl At The End Of The World is not a particularly long book (213 pages including bonuses), it took me almost a month to read through because, my anxiety having already been triggered by something unrelated, the parts about the End Times sent my anxiety through the roof, and I could only read the early part of the book in very small pieces once every few days.
So, Reader Beware! Elizabeth Esther’s Girl At The End Of The World is a wonderful read, but, for some, it may hit a little too close to home.
I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah’s Blogging For Books program. The review is my own.