My wife has little or no interest in reading books about the Bible, religion, or anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses. She thinks I’m obsessive in my research about the history and teachings of the Watchtower Society. Her eyes will start to glaze over about thirty seconds after I bring up the subject of my past life as a Jehovah’s Witness.
On the other hand, she loves to read. She’ll read for hours before going to sleep at night, and always urges me to read the books she finds interesting. While most of her favorite books are not to my taste, she has been able to point me to some really good novels and biographies that I’ve enjoyed reading over the past few years.
I can suggest that she read a book by Richard Dawkins or Bart Ehrman, but she never does. I was shocked when she agreed to read Kyria Abrahams’ JW memoir, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed. She read most of it, but lost interest about 2/3 of the way through when Kyria changed the style and mood of her story. But like me, she really enjoyed reading the first half of I’m Perfect…
I can’t even remember who it was that first turned me on to Brianna Karp. Other than the fact that Brianna grew up in Southern California, I really had nothing in common with her. Look – I’m a retired grandfather living in Oregon with one foot in the grave – and she’s a young, vibrant, hot chick from “The OC” with her whole life ahead of her. The only thing we seemed to have in common was that we were both raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Someone’s tip pointed me to her new book, The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness. At first I thought – uh, a girl’s guide? Homelessness? Probably not a book for me. Not really interested. OK, she was a Jehovah’s Witness at one time – that might be interesting to read about. I could read the JW part and then toss the book or give it to the Goodwill. Maybe, like Kyria’s book, my wife might be interested in reading parts of it. But this was Miss Karp’s first book – and first books by non-writers are usually very, very bad.
And yet, for some reason I found myself intrigued by what I had read online about her book. I decided to contact her and ask if she had an advanced copy that I could borrow. If I liked it, I’d write a review for her. Because of her past connection to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I told her that it might get a mention here at Ex-JW.com.
We exchanged a couple of emails and she agreed to send me a pre-publication ARC version of the book. I promised to read it quickly and then return it to her. Sure enough, a few days later an advance copy of the book arrived in a plain gray postal envelope.
At first glance the cover really didn’t grab me – a young woman sits on the arm of a chair in the middle of an empty parking lot while dark gray storm clouds brood in the background. It certainly was not very “Jehovah’s Witnessy,” and at first glance, even a bit foreboding. Oh, no! I hoped this wasn’t another book about some depressed chick that drowns her troubles with drugs and alcohol because she thinks “no one loves her.”
I grabbed the book and found a comfortable seat – you know, one with a hole in the middle and the little handle on the side – to give myself a relaxed ten minutes or so to get acquainted with the book.
An hour later my legs had gone completely numb from sitting so long. From the very minute that I started reading it, I couldn’t put the book down. I had to call my good friend, author Richard Kelly. “Dick – you’ve got to read this book by this JW girl who lives near Riverside. Let me see if I can get her to send you a copy. This is really good!” I think he knew I was on to something unique.
My second call was to my wife. She has been out-of-state for several months taking care of critical family business. “Sweetheart! I’m getting a copy of this book for you as soon as it comes out. I’m serious, Baby, this book is good!” [I ordered her copy today from Amazon.com.]
I think my enthusiasm may have convinced her that I was on to something special that she might actually like to read.
And Brianna’s new book is special. Released today (April 26, 2011), it’s as good as any first time writer has ever published. She writes with a smooth, easy-to-read first person narrative style that really engages the reader. She wants you to empathize and sympathize with her as she faces each day and new turn of events. I guarantee that you will understand and relate to her joy and her pain.
I found the book shocking in ways that I had never expected. When I finished it, I felt devastated. While reading the last few chapters at a lunch counter at Denny’s restaurant, I broke into tears and had to leave my breakfast unfinished. I was so choked up I couldn’t swallow my food or even say a word to the cashier. After climbing into my car, I had to take some time to compose myself before getting on the freeway. I find it hard to drive – and cry – at 70 mph.
In spite of being very busy with other commitments, I finished the book in just a few hours (not all spent on the commode, just in case you were wondering), and immediately forwarded it to a lady in California who was also very eager to get her hands on a copy.
When I finished the book I called my wife to tell her what had happened. Now she can’t wait to get her hands on her copy. She knows when I’m that excited about a book, she’s probably going to love it too.
I wrote Miss Karp and told her that I could see a movie being made from the book. It has so many things going on, and it works on so many visual and dramatic levels, that her story should appeal to all ages and groups – even really old guys like me.
Although Brianna’s book is about the often tragic damage done to children of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s not really an “anti-JW book.” Its running theme is surviving while being out of work and homeless. Where it succeeds is to identify the irrational discrimination against homeless and out-of-work people who live among us – and the almost insurmountable obstacles our culture places in their way back to financial independence. There is also a tragic love story that humanizes the protagonist, Miss Karp, and the many lessons she learned during her struggle.
Yes, Brianna’s book has all those elements and more. But it’s also a story about friends and strangers who stepped forward to help her as they could, often with everything they had – without any reasonable expectations of repayment or other compensation.
It also makes you think. What if I become homeless? Who will help me? Where will I go? Will anyone love me? Will I survive? How does anyone survive without a job or a roof over their head?
Take my word for it, Brianna’s book is one you will want to read – whether you’ve ever had any connection to Jehovah’s Witnesses or not. This book is a real page turner – no matter what you’re sitting on…
Oh, and by the way, now that I’ve read the book – I really love the cover illustration. It’s perfect!