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VINE VOICEon 9 February 2010
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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on 20 August 2007
I was stopped on a bus as I was reading pin down by Teresa cooper by a woman who was interested in what I was reading, after a short discussion she told me that she had just read a book that pulled at her heart strings and that she was a religious woman, she mentioned that what she had read was so horrific and unbelievable and that I should get me a copy as soon as I could, so I did and I was flobber gasted as this is the first time I have come across such a thing, I know that abuse does go on in our church run homes as pin down has exposed this, but this was something else and has opened my eyes to a new kind of abuse, I wish the sisters well and I recommend this book to everyone.
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on 25 August 2007
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". Disabling distress is felt when one has no other frame of reference to confirm the unruly feelings that all was not well, feelings that went against something we were raised to think was "of God" while surrounded only by grown-ups who embraced that ethos (or were not sufficiently concerned about us children to confront it).

I should note for others raised in that cult that the reading brought back so much of what I experienced and saw that at times the painful memories were too much to continue and I had to put the book down for a time. If, on the other hand, you are unfamiliar with the cult, you may wonder why I would continue reading when that was the case. This brings me to one reason why it is so important that a book has finally been written about childhoods in a cult that has sunk enormous efforts and resources into rewriting its history (aided by certain "academic" types and others that have come within its sphere of influence) in its pursuit of recognition, acceptance and the resulting financial success it craves, all while being unwilling to make reparations to the children who were abused by it. There is a source of pain far greater than bad memories, which can be lethal to sanity and hope: being told that what you remember did not happen, that you are crazy, that you are lying. It is maddening enough when it is various perpetrators; it is absolutely devastating when it is, say, a parent.

As part of the first wave of children born into captivity in the "Family", I ran away one pre-dawn into the unknown, a minor in a 3rd world country at a time when those born in the cult did not leave it (unless, say, you became a runaway, perhaps never heard from again). I had never met or spoken with any relatives outside the cult to whom I could turn.

For what seemed like forever, I felt so alone without anybody else who could bear witness to what happened. I had no examples to show that there could be a future after that childhood, that one could get an education and carve out a fate other than the self-destruction the cult predicted for its "backslidden" children. If I were to dare that today, I would have this book, and my suffering would be immeasurably lessened.

In fact, back then, Kristina Jones' was one of the first voices I heard that bore witness. It seems that her sisters Celeste and Juliana take after that same courage.

This book strikes a blow against child abuse in all its guises, because the perpetrators' wager is that even if you live, you will not tell. However, this book also renders a very specific public service because, while The Family International may not be original among child abusers in the crimes it committed against children, it definitely pushed the envelope in its sustained operation - under the guise of a "Christian" movement - of an international clandestine conspiracy that carried out, covered for and profited from such exploits as child abuse, rape, incest, kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture, child slave labor and trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and medical neglect of minors (like me - I suffered severe and irreversible consequences affecting basic physical functions) and of vulnerable adults, which neglect sometimes resulted in negligent homicide, as my case almost did.

The Family International is now intent on strengthening its foothold in respectable circles that do not know its past, often putting forward as Project Managers of its charities (projects which more often than not focus on vulnerable youth) cult members who severely abused children. The constituencies that it is targeting have a right to know who they embrace or champion.

Perhaps progress will bring the day when institutions such as the USA's Internal Revenue Service will be informed enough so as to stop granting to the Family Care Foundation and other alter egos of such enterprises as The Family International the aegis under which to make millions through tax exemptions (or other governmental assistance or subsidies).
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on 6 August 2007
This gripping book should be read by everyone. You'll pick it up and wont want to put it down. Expect late nights while you read that extra paragragh.

The insight into how cults control and twist their members perceptions is enlightening. You may ask yourself how does this this happen - read this book. The way the three sisters escape from this abusive life is uplifting. Anyone who wants to escape from physical, emotional or sexual abuse can only find this book the inspiration they need to escape. BUY IT.
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on 27 June 2008
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.
The three sisters were very brave to allow this book to go to print and tell the truth. The sad thing is that I believe I met some of the group on a trip to Portugal many years ago, without realising the full extent of the cult's beliefs. I can still see the face of the small little girl who was performing for us...
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on 27 May 2008
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 with us. I am familiar with the CoG and was interested to read what it was really like from the inside. A gripping and compelling story that was uncomfortable at times but well worth reading.
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on 6 February 2008
In the past, I have read various stories and articles on 'the children of god' or 'the family', and it has always been a topic of interest for me. I read this book in two days, i just couldnt put it down! the more i read the horrific accounts from kristina, celeste and juliana, the more i read on, desperately hoping they would soon break free from the clutches of the cult. no child should be born into such a sick and domineering existence. it outraged me to discover that that sick disgusting paedophile david berg died comfortably in his bed. he was a sick pervert who brainwashed people. his associate karen zerby, is also a sick paedophile who needs to be caught and brought to justice. it makes me feel sick to know that there are still innocent children being born into that cult everyday, who need protecting from these perverts.
i think kristina, celeste and juliana are so very brave for writing this book and exposing the family and berg and zerby for what they really are. it must of been so traumatic for them to revisit their painful childhoods, but i hope it has also been healing, and it was lovely to read that they now are living their lives as free women. i just hope that one day soon, the cult are exposed and the perverts who call themselves 'leaders' and 'gods prophet' are brought to justice.
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on 19 August 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. (Watson, 1930) If Watson's theory were true, then a group like the Children of God would be the perfect place to find the results to prove it, as the world we were raised in was completely controlled and cut off from everything but its own reality.

In the short term, it seemed like the approach was effective. As children, we didn't even question that Jesus was supposed to come back in 1993, riding out of the sky on a white horse to rescue us from the evil Anti-Christ's one world government. Twenty years on, however, statistics have shown considerable flaws in this line of thinking. An estimated three-fourths of all second generation over legal age are no longer part of The Family or believers in Berg's doctrines (see [...] The present-day leadership are having to deal with the embarrassing truth of their past, exposed by their own children, and the disappointment of their unfulfilled hopes and dreams for the second generation who did not turn out as their prophet had promised they would.

Although it is true that we are partly the product of the social environment we are raised in, it is not what completely defines us. It was our inborn desire to seek out answers and listen to logic rather than accept unsubstantiated faith that ultimately freed us to think for ourselves and choose the way we wanted to live our lives. It is our hope that those who read our story, who are trapped by fear, whatever the circumstances- in an abusive relationship or organisation - will find their inner strength to break away from those who wish to control them, and build a new life for themselves and their children.
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on 12 August 2007
Well written biography by three sisters whose lives have all been deeply affected by their involvement with the "Children Of God" cult. Whilst their mother made a break with the cult with one of her daughters, two daughters are brought up until their late teens within the cult.

The mental and physical abuse that these girls suffered will shock the reader. The sexual abuse details are truly horrific but the girls must be commended in their courage to bring the true horrors of this Cult to the Public Arena. These so called Cults have been a closed book to the general public because their recruits have been too afraid to speak out.

Kristina Jones has in fact very bravely spoken out on many T.V. programmes such as Richard and Judy, T.V. A.M. in the past year .

This is a must read .
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on 31 July 2007
What a brilliant title and what a brilliant book. A modern day masterpiece that Harper Collins is backing this summer to be a best seller.

Hero's are born out of adversity, born out of hope and born out of love, ordinary people you'd see doing their shopping on a Saturday morning and never know the degree of hardship they faced and overcame. This book is written by three such hero's. It is the story of three sisters and details their successful struggle to escape and overcome an insane and abusive religious cult they were born into called The Family (formerly The Children of God)...a cult that tried to break and destroy the will of a generation of children. It didn't break these three sisters....the result of their heroic struggle packs the pages of a book that will turn your world on its head, draw tears from your eyes and inspire you towards the courage that shines from the hearts of Kristina, Celeste and Juliana.

A captivating insight into the the repulsive world of child abuse, mind control, international cults, religious lunacy and the indomitable spirit and courage of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

If you buy one book this year, make it Not Without My Sister!
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