“Belief and faith are great, but very few people have been led astray by thinking for themselves.”
I finished this book at one AM on a work night, when I had to be up at 6 AM the next morning. I did this even though I knew I would feel like shit the next morning, because I just couldn’t help myself. I was thinking, boy, I should go to bed! I’m going to regret this tomorrow (and probably the days after)! And then I just kept reading. That is the power of this book. In the morning, my eyes were so dry I thought they were going to go all sleep monster on me:
I actually went into this book expecting to have a good time reading it, but not expecting to be very impressed. I will admit I have a snobby bias against books that are ghostwritten, especially ones “written” by celebrities. I just assume they’re all money grabs. But once I got into this book, it took hold of me. Leah Remini is a pistol. She’s brash and loudmouthed and admits that many people find her incredibly annoying. Right on the very first page, she admits to having done some terrible things. She says her family and her husband have done terrible things. But then you realize why she’s telling you all this, and it’s because she knows the Church of Scientology would have used all that information against in an effort to discredit her once the book came out. So she did it for them. It’s a powerful way to start out her story.
And her story ended up being fascinating. I know there are other published memoirs of people who grew up in the church, but I’ve never read one before. My knowledge has mostly come from books like Going Clear (and its subsequent HBO film), which focuses on the history of L. Ron Hubbard and his church, and the more organizational aspects of it. Reading it from the perspective of one of its parishioners (this is what Leah calls them, so I will too, even though I would prefer to call them cult members) was fascinating. She walks you through the whole thing, her way of thinking, how and why the religion meant so much to her, what her life was like because of it. And all the while you’re horrified by what Scientology does to her and those around her, you also understand how she could remain so dedicated and loyal for so long. That’s how cults work–they are designed to hook people and keep them.
Leah Remini’s book is a fascinating artifact of a person who survived a cult. You can see the way her thinking is shaped by her experiences, and you can see how she resists. Her story is a good one for this type of book because she saw and experienced so many different aspects of the religion, as an early (and failed) member of the SeaOrg, as a standard parishioner, and after she’d worked her way up in Hollywood, as one of the church’s celebrity VIPs, for a while in the inner circle with Tom Cruise. And you can see that it’s only after she’s completely out of the church that the full scope of what Scientology has done occurs to her. These were actually the most fascinating parts for me, when she talked about the work she’s had to do, the therapy, to essentially deprogram her brain. I wish there had been more of it, but then, she’s only been out for two years, and still has a long road ahead of her.
If you like Leah as an actress, and if you are interested in Scientology or cults, I would definitely recommend this. Her particular and very unique voice shines through, even though the book is ghostwritten by Rebecca Paley, who acquits herself very well in making her writing presence as invisible as possible.