Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Prior to reading this autobiography the only thing I knew about Scientology was that Tom Cruise practiced it and that somehow an alien was involved. Other than that, I had no idea of their beliefs or practices.
As I read the story of Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of the current head of the church, I was surprised how similar the church is to an episode of The Mentalist where Patrick Jane investigates in a church/cult that believes in the power of the mind.
When I mentioned that to my boyfriend, he seemed surprised and said that the church shown in the show was a deliberate imitation of Scientology.
So the reason I started reading this book was because it was chosen as a book-of-the-month for a book club that I am intent on joining. I don't normally go for non-fiction reads as entertainment, but I thought it would be interesting to try out something different.
The story that Hill tells is harrowing and offers true insight into the function and day-to-day life in the cult of Scientology. HOWEVER...
What could potentially have been a nail-biting memoir with painful truths and unbelievable reveals is somehow turned into a very bland and boring dissemination of Scientology and the practices among the high-ranking "officers" of the cult.
Hill describes what happens to her in very straight-forward and flat prose. "I did this", "I went here", "They said ____" is basically how the entire book is written. Very rarely does the reader get any true insight on what she is feeling. Part of it may be admittedly due to emotion-suppressing techniques that Scientology practices, but it causes the emotional impact of the her story to fall flat.
She quickly reels off damaging actions Scientology does, including forced labour, solitary confinement, manipulative techniques, etc., but perhaps her story would have been more interesting if she had delved further into how these things made her feel or how they affected the people around her.
Of all the autobiographies that I have read, this was one of the more boring ones. There is a lack of passion and a little touch of drama in the writing style would have probably helped as well.
This book has become very popular because of the veil that has been over Scientology since the 50s. People have always wondered about the lives of those who practice this religion and now everyone has a chance to find out the truth about it. Hill does what she intended to: she exposes the leaders and the system of Scientology for exactly what it is. Unfortunately, it doesn't make for a very interesting read.
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