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Not Without My Sister: The True Story of Three Girls Violated and Betrayed by Those They Trusted [Hardcover]

Kristina Jones , Celeste Jones , Juliana Buhring
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 July 2007

The bestselling, devastating account of three sisters torn apart, abused and exploited at the hands of a community that robbed them of their childhood. It reveals three lives, separate but entwined, that have experienced unspeakable horror, unrelenting loyalty and unforgettable courage.

From as early as three years old, Juliana, Celeste and Kristina were treated as sexual beings by their 'guardians' in the infamous religious cult known as the Children of God. They were made to watch and mimic orgies, received love letters and sexual advances from men old enough to be their grandfather, and were forced into abusive relationships. They were denied access to formal schooling, had to wander the streets begging for money, and were mercilessly beaten for 'crimes' as unpredictable as reading an encyclopaedia.

Finally, unable to live with the guilt of what had happened to her children, their mother escaped with Kristina, cutting herself off from her remaining children in a bid to save at least one child. Desperate to save her sisters, Kristina eventually returned to the place of her torture to free Celeste. Years later, Juliana found the courage to escape, knowing that the child she was carrying would be subjected to the same fate if she did not.

Now the three sisters have finally come together to reveal in full and horrific detail their existence within the Children of God cult. Their stories reveal a community spread throughout the world and its legacy of anorexia, depression, drug abuse, suicide and even murder. Lives are ripped apart and painstakingly mended with a shared strength that finally enabled the sisters to free themselves from the shadows of their past.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Element (2 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007248067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007248063
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.5 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 856,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘A chilling account of life in the grip of a sinister madness' Daily Mail

From the Author

Kristina Jones
When I left the Children of God in 1987 at twelve years old I had to start my life from scratch. In just one day my whole life had changed.
My newfound freedom was tainted by the fact that although I had escaped, other members of my family and childhood friends were still trapped in that world. What I had experienced was so extreme and so secret that there were times when I doubted myself that this dark world existed. Meeting other second generation ex-ers three years later who told similar stories, and who I could immediately relate to, was an important factor in doing what I could to somehow right the wrongs that were being committed against my generation every day.
I made a decision that I would not play ball and keep quiet. I have never regretted taking this position. Cult leaders demand 100 per cent loyalty and secrecy - in fact, they rely on it! My loyalty has always been to my family and to the truth. It was often stated by cult apologists and Family spokespersons that I was an isolated case. This was clearly not true, as can now be attested to through the cult's own literature and the accounts of thousands of other brave survivors who have been able to break free.
For many years, I was a lone voice speaking out against the abuse I suffered as a child, and even had to deal with my own father calling me a liar. I have consistently put my experience and knowledge to use by raising awareness about cults and never gave up hope that one day my family would be reunited. Revisiting the more traumatic memories from my childhood and hearing my sisters' stories have triggered some difficult emotions in me. But being re-united with and writing the book with Celeste and Juliana have gone a long way in enabling me to put to rest a very painful aspect of my life, and taught me that some dreams do come true.

Celeste Jones
From as early as I can remember, I never had a place I could call home. When I was ten months old our family left England for India. But soon I was not only separated from my extended family back in England, but my mother and father also separated, and I didn't see my mother, sister and baby brother again for fifteen years. My father told me that Jesus would reward me for sacrificing my family and that it would all be worth it in the end. The promise of a reward in Heaven was the carrot on the stick, the reason we were given for why we had to give up everything for the Family.
As a child, I believed everything I was told, just as a five-year-old accepts the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. But I also remember having questions as early as six. One afternoon I woke up from a nap with a burning feeling in my chest. I can still recall the dream I had vividly to this day. I dreamed that I had died and gone to Heaven. Amongst the clouds stood a tall, white statue. It was God, only he wasn't real, he was just a lump of stone, and a sense of disillusionment and anger overwhelmed me as I stood staring at it. The dream impacted me deeply and for the first time the thought entered my mind, `What if God doesn't really exist? What if everything I've been told isn't true? What if all this is just for nothing in the end?' Later on as an adolescent I questioned and at times rebelled, but after one too many knocks back, I shut down and stopped thinking.
It was only after I became a parent that I found the strength to take charge of my life and no longer let fear enslave me to a system of control that stripped me of my right to choose what was best for me and my daughter. Being reunited with my family, my brothers and sisters who were virtually strangers to me for most of my life, has been the biggest reward and source of happiness I could have ever imagined.

Juliana Buhring
I always wished to fly. I used to stare up at the sky from the confines of the cult commune walls and imagine growing wings and flying away. When I finally broke free from the cult of the Children of God/the Family, I was released from my cage, but the freedom was frightening. When I needed to get a bank account, or register my existence in order to get a job, officials looked at me like an alien from the moon. Apart from my passport, there were no records of my existence.
The most common line the Family uses against the ex-members who try and pursue justice for the wrongs they have suffered is, `Why can't they just get over it and move on? They need to leave the past behind and look ahead to the future. Forgive and forget.' I was indoctrinated to think this way for so many years. Now at last on the other side, I understand the reality. You may be able to forgive, but you cannot just `forget', nor erase a lifetime of memories.
I wanted to make sense of my life, and so I sat down and started to write my story. It was through this cathartic process that I came to understand the full implications of the power that one human can hold over another, that one narcissistic man held over the lives of thousands. This is not just the story of my family; it is the story of many families trapped beneath the deceptive facade of the cult I grew up in. It is my hope that our story will be the knife that slashes away the weeds, freeing those caught within to kick their way to the surface and breathe the air of freedom.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Book's Authors 19 Aug 2007
When we decided to write our memoir we were keenly aware of the controversy and notoriety that has surrounded the Children of God, now called The Family International. We endeavoured to produce an accurate account of our lives as children born into this evangelical breakaway group that started in the late 60's. As part of our research, we re-read through many of the Children of God's internal publications and watched the only remaining video footage of ourselves as children that was recovered only recently. The memories these images evoked were disturbing and painful. (Much of this information is now available at [...])

As children we were always told what we should feel and think, and were never allowed to express our own emotions, thoughts and feelings. In order to tell our story we had to unlock painful memories, which we had kept long suppressed. The freedom we now have to speak our minds without fear and intimidation has been cathartic and has helped us come to terms with our past. Through writing the book, we saw clearly the full implications of the power that one human can hold over another - that one man - David Berg, held over the lives of thousands. The power of a narcissistic leader, that both created our family and destroyed it.

David Berg believed that he could mould the children of his followers into a form of his own choosing and often boasted that the second generation would turn out to be the "proof of the pudding." His attitude mirrored closely John B. Watson who said that given "a dozen, healthy infants" and his "own specified world to bring them up in", he could turn them into whatever he wanted.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave and strong 6 May 2008
By reader
Three brave girls questioned the beliefs they were brought up in and found the courage, despite horendous indoctorination, to figure out what feels right for them in life.

What shines through in this book is the tremendous love and loyalty these sisters have for each other, all their siblings, mothers, and the friends who suffered with them. They even show profound tolerance and forgiveness towards their father.

A thoroughably readable book which shows how controlling and manipulative a cult can be and the effects it has on innocent lives.

I wish these brave and resilient girls happiness and success with their lives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I think there is a temptation to judge books like this, not on the basis of how well written they are, but on the extent to which we sympathise with the author's point of view. It is impossible not to sympathise with the authors in this case, and I have no doubt of the truth of what they are saying. The closest I ever came to being involved with the COG was as a target for a failed attempt at flirty fishing in the mid-1970's, but I do have some experience in another organisation which, although much more mainstream and respectable then the COG, is somewhere on the same continuum, so many aspects of this book had the ring of truth for me. I think that what these three young women have done by leaving the organisation and then laying their lives bare so publicly is both very brave and very helpful to others in similar situations. But then to return to my first point, I feel that the book could have been much better written. I found it confusing; I was not always sure who was who, or whose voice I was listening to at any one time, and I was unable to keep track of the host of different characters and locations. I can appreciate the authors' difficulty; this is after all a factual book and not a novel, so it could be argued that too much editing or streamlining would do a disservice to the truth. I just found it a bit long and heavy-going towards the end. Perhaps if each of the sisters had written their stories completely separately they could have been presented as a trilogy. The three sisters had left the COG at different times, Juliana having left very shortly before this book was written. Perhaps a little more time for reflection would have helped, but perhaps it would have blunted its edge. If one or all of them were to write a follow up from a longer perspective in a few years from now, I would be interested in reading it.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True to Life 25 Aug 2007
By Lucy
This book does an excellent job of capturing, in a matter-of-fact narrative delivered in unembellished prose, a picture of what it was like to have been born circa the 70's to parents who joined the "Children of God" cult (which now goes by "The Family International"), and to have been raised there.

Although I grew up in "Family" cult communes in another continent half a world away, not knowing the authors (except for seeing videos and pictures of Celeste Jones at Music With Meaning, which the cult published and circulated), as I read "Not Without my Sister" I recognized the various directives from the cult leaders' "letters" that the authors mentioned - and the unfortunately mirrored consequences when the adults around us implemented those directives on me and the other children around me.

So many of the incidents that the 3 authors recount and the trademark environments, atmosphere and modus operandi during the various phases of the cult's history, echo uncannily with what I experienced and saw when I was confined in that insular world. Like the authors as children, it was the only world I had ever known; escape from servitude and a better future seemed impossible dreams. I think the authors handled particularly effectively the challenge of communicating, in a direct and almost conversational manner notably devoid of melodramatics, a child's inner experience of confusion and entrapment in the face of cult-approved and sponsored molestation and exploitation delivered by the perpetrators in tones of religious devotion and of being all "sweetness and light".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT STORY
Published 1 month ago by peter pan
5.0 out of 5 stars kindle book
This is a tragic story of 3 little girls being abused. These parents should not have allowed it to happen. Lesley
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. Lesley Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Not without my Sister
Absolutely riveting - It is hard to believe this sort of behaviour has been allowed to happen in my liffetime!
Published 9 months ago by N. King
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
this book is a great book, it is hard to get into at first but when you get going with it it is really intersesting and although some parts may be a bit graphic with the way the... Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2012 by samantha
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok if into religion
I couldnt get into this book as im not into the religion aspect.
But for those who enjoy a heart warming read in this relation it is
proably brilliant.
Published on 17 Jan 2011 by Becky25
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Without My Sister
"This is the story of three sisters who were raised in a cult, but separated at a young age. It tells their individual stories, and shows the dangers that can happen within a... Read more
Published on 4 Mar 2010 by John Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars unbelievable strength
In a world filled with crime and death, war and poverty, many seek the salvation of religion to overcome. Read more
Published on 27 Aug 2008 by L. Dorward
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but Courageous
It is never pleasant to read some disturbing experiences that these young lady's have gone through. I kept questioning myself on why I was reading what I was. Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2008 by John McBride
5.0 out of 5 stars disturbing
I didn't think I could finish this book. It really effected me that so much evil could still exist in the name of a God that despises child abuse. Read more
Published on 27 Jun 2008 by Mrs. Ruth Dorrington
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely fantastic
this was the most moving, upsetting, yet amusing at times, book i have read in a very long time. These women are a total inspiration to me and I thank them for sharing thier story... Read more
Published on 27 May 2008 by B. Mitchell
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