Linda Curtis was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and everyone she loved—her friends, her family—shared her faith, as did the man she eventually married. She belief was strong until she was in her early thirties, when doubts crept in and she begins to question everything she’d ever believed to be true. Over time, Linda’s questions grew, and her faith in the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses faded. Much to the dismay of her husband, friends, and family Linda chose to leave the religion, as well as her marriage—which resulted with her being shunned by everyone she cared about. Despite the pain of her severed relationships, Linda stayed firm in her decision, and set out to discover life anew, free of the limitations imposed by her former religion.
I’ve read a few books on this subject, but the religion in question has always been the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). I have others that focus on different religions, but I haven’t read them yet, so Shunned marks the first time I read something different on this subject.
I briefly studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and attended the Kingdom Hall a few times when I was younger. I ultimately gave it up when I realized I strongly disagreed with certain tenets and practices of the faith. One of the things that bothered me is the practice of shunning, so when I saw this book I immediately wanted to read it.
It was heartbreaking to read how Curtis’ family caught off all but the most necessary contact with her, when they were previously a close and loving family. It took a lot of courage and immeasurable inner strength for her to follow her heart in the face of the psychological bullying she endured.
As I read this book, I felt three emotions more than any others: Anger at the callous way her family treated her. Heavy sadness over the pain she was feeling at the loss of her friends and family. Last, but not least, an overall sense of awe and admiration over the way she stayed true to herself, no matter the personal cost.
If you’re interested in memoirs written by people who left their religion, then you’ll probably want to add this one to your reading list.
About the Book
Linda Curtis was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and is an unquestioning true believer who has knocked on doors from the time she was nine years old. Like other Witnesses, she has been discouraged from pursuing a career, higher education, or even voting, and her friendships are limited to the Witness community.
Then one day, at age thirty-three, she knocks on a door—and a coworker she deeply respects answers the door. To their mutual consternation she launches into her usual spiel, but this time, for the first time ever, the message sounds hollow. In the months that follow, Curtis tries hard to overcome the doubts that spring from that doorstep encounter, knowing they could upend her “safe” existence. But ultimately, unable to reconcile her incredulity, she leaves her religion and divorces her Witness husband—a choice for which she is shunned by the entire community, including all members of her immediate family.
Shunned follows Linda as she steps into a world she was taught to fear and discovers what is possible when we stay true to our hearts, even when it means disappointing those we love.