By Jenny Bardsley
What is it like to grow up in a family where your parents follow the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl? Ask Elizabeth Esther, author of “Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future.” Thank you to Convergent publishers for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion and review.
Elizabeth grew up in The Assembly as the granddaughter of church founders, George and Betty Geftakys. She was preaching on street corners by age nine, ingrained with the belief she would be Left Behind at any moment, taught that the natural curves of her body were to blame for tempting all men into sin and spanked every day. Now as an adult, Elizabeth has PTSD.
The most stomach churning moments in this book have to do with the Pearl’s child rearing advice in action. On page 41 Elizabeth describes “obedience tests” aka “blanket training”. Children from her church were placed on mats and then spanked every time they reached off the matt. Elizabeth describes how some mothers would intentionally tempt their children by placing candy all around the mats, and then spank them when they reached for the candy.
Elizabeth’s own accounts of being abused in the name of corporal chastisement are difficult to read. Gracefully, she lightens her memoir with a lot of humor. You can find out more information about Elizabeth Esther’s story on her blog.