“Edwards grippingly chronicles her bizarre childhood within a California cult in her smart debut.
Children of God was a movement founded in Huntington Beach in 1968 that claimed the Great Apocalypse was coming in 1993, the year Edwards would turn 12. Constantly on the move—in part because her family thought it was their mission to warn the world, in part because they were running from the law for various reasons—Edwards’s parents were reassigned to a new location in Asia every few months, where they isolated Edwards and her siblings behind the high walls of compounds.
Although her memoir mostly focuses on her life in the cult—its senseless rules (only three squares of toilet paper allowed) and abusive methods like “flirty-fishing” (collecting a donation in exchange for sexual favors)—the most memorable section comes when Edwards leaves the cult at age 12 after wearing down her parents and tries to forge a new life as a teenager in America. Torn between love for and fury toward her parents, she eventually discovers writing, an outlet that helps her sort through her confusion about her identity outside of the cult: “For the first time, I was getting to know myself.”
This is a wrenching testimony about a complicated childhood reclaimed.”
“Flor Edwards’s Apocalypse Child is an engrossing account of growing up within the strangely insular Children of God cult. Followers of the cult, founded in the late 1960s by David Berg, accepted his twisted interpretation of Christianity and viewed their leader as a lion-headed prophet. Born into the cult in 1981, Edwards was essentially sequestered from the outside world and raised to believe that the Children of God’s lifestyle was the chosen way.
Edwards recalls a childhood spent mostly overseas, moving often to avoid the Antichrist and “outsiders,” or to spread the word of God. Her lucid, almost deceptively serene language describes her parents and extended cult family, along with an ever-growing roster of siblings—her mother gave birth to a new baby each year due to Berg’s forbidding contraception.
Following Berg’s death in 1994—from illness, not the apocalypse—Edwards’s family drifted away from the group, which received unfavorable legal and media attention and was reorganizing. Edwards’s reentry into society and move to the United States as a teenager was both liberating and traumatic.
With expressive yet measured candor, Edwards conveys her sense of identity confusion and outrage during a time of readjustment, as well as her eventual journey to greater self-acceptance and spiritual peace.”
A debut book focuses on a young girl growing up in the infamous Children of God cult and the bizarre locales that she was raised in.
Edwards’ memoir chronicles her upbringing in the religious movement the Children of God, also called the Family, a doomsday cult formed in the late 1960s by David Berg. Berg prophesied a looming apocalypse, claiming it would occur in 1993. Often in hiding, he sent letters to instruct his followers, with the prophet encouraging an atmosphere of wanton sexuality and constant ministry, interspersed with tales of his alleged erotic conquests to offset his own impotency. From a young age, Edwards had her doubts about the “evil” that the walls around the family’s residences supposedly protected her from as well as a great fear that her life would end in martyrdom. Much of the early years of her and her twin sister, Tamar, was spent in Thailand, staying in overcrowded conditions while their parents did “outreach” work, which often meant begging. The book delivers another account of the Children of God, whose history of incest and sexualization of minor-age children has become notorious since the 2005 murder-suicide committed by former cult member Ricky “Davidito” Rodriguez in the U.S. Rodriguez killed an associate of his mother’s and then took his own life.
Edwards’ experiences portray a different yet no less oppressive Family half a world away. The author will not be a stranger to some readers, having been extensively interviewed, and she brings the same presence and charisma to her memoir. The narrative is vivid, from its depictions of the blood of her mother’s first miscarriage to the constant dust and grime of life near the Mekong River. The moving story carries a muted, often dark sense of humor, with a wry sense of timing. Edwards’ shock at forgetting to minister to a brawny Russian who hoisted her above a deep freezer in Thailand (“Wanna feel cold?”) is one particularly endearing and startling case. But the author’s years of awakening after her family’s exit from the Children of God, while not rushed, feel abbreviated. The accounts of her realization that she grew up in a cult, ranging from a story in Seventeen to her teenage rebellion and even her attempted suicide, are presented with a self-awareness and charm that will make readers want more.
An impressive religious memoir—candid and inspiring without being sensationalistic or self-pitying.
“A slim, concise, and compulsively readable memoir of a complicated subject: how religions and authoritarianism, in particular religious cults, seep slowly and insidiously into the psyche until one doesn’t know what is normal and what is not. Edwards writes with a breezy, but not unserious, voice–concentrating mostly on her childhood in Thailand, then moving on to her adolescence in Chicago and California where the truths she grew up believing quickly unraveled.
A great read for those curious about cult life and indoctrination, but who shy away from the darkest shadows of such places. Readers will come away with a better understanding of this type of psychological abuse, but will also be left with a sense of hope and possibility, thanks to the scope of Flor’s focus and her emphasis on the power of reading, writing, and storytelling to change lives.”
My memoir Apocalypse Child is about a girl (me) who grows up in an apocalyptic cult in Southeast Asia. She lives under the control of a dictator-like leader who controls his twelve thousand followers from his top-secret hiding place. Flor never sees the leader and grows up never knowing she will live to see adulthood. Instead, her future is painted with the promise of a lush heaven precluded by a torturous death because she is one of God’s chosen children who will save the world before the Great Apocalypse when she will be twelve years old. Despite the terror Flor faces, she manages to see beauty around her. But her life is once again jolted when the leader dies and Flor is thrust into the throes of mainstream society and left to make sense of it all.
WHAT AUTHORS ARE SAYING:
“An astounding work written with indelible clarity and style. APOCALYPSE CHILD is a brilliant and vivid depiction of what goes on behind the walls of a cult―revealing how terror permeates each and every waking moment. Flor Edwards is a wise and savvy soul who was forced to dance the dance―intuitively knowing it was wrong―but also knew she had to do everything in her power to be set free. A singular achievement.”―Diana Raab, author of Regina’s Closet and Writing for Bliss
“APOCALYPSE CHILD is a beautifully crafted narrative about growing up in a religious cult in the 1980s. While candid and revealing of the extreme practices within a secret society, the writer retells the story of her life with compassion and remarkable wisdom. A compelling, important memoir by an unusually gifted author.”―Simon Van Booy, author of Everything Beautiful Began After and The Illusion of Separateness
“As a child, when given spending money for the first time, Flor Edwards purchased a pen. She wasn’t allowed to use it―the cult she grew up in didn’t allow for individual creative expression―but she carried it around like a totem. How lucky we are that she wields a pen now, that she has claimed her own voice, that she has found the perfect words to share her compelling, unconventional story.”―Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis
“An addictive, deeply emotional, and terrifyingly true account of growing up in a religious cult. Apocalypse Child heralds an exciting new literary voice. I can’t wait to read more by Flor Edwards.”―Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and God: A Human History