Cannonball Read V: Book #16/52
Natalie grew up in the Children of God cult. It's also been known as "The Family" and currently as "The Family International". I'd heard of the cult, but knew virtually nothing about it before reading this book. I was completely shocked at how sick the leaders and some of the people in this cult are and I'm surprised that it doesn't get more attention than it does.
Natalie was born into the cult, her parents having joined as young adults. Although they are from France originally, Natalie's family spends most of their life moving from compound to compound in various countries in Asia and off the coast of Africa. The compounds usually consisted of a few other Children of God members and their families who made a living by trying to get locals to buy their self-produced videos and books that were hopefully to be used as recruitment tools. As a result, they were often very poor and the kids often struggled to even have food.
Besides the lack of food and sometimes adequate clothing, leaders in the group were often physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive. The kids were home-schooled using Children of God curriculum. Natalie was sexually abused when she was four by a man who was supposed to be watching her and her brothers. Sexual abuse ran rampant in the cult, especially since it was condoned by the cult leader, David Berg. He wrote letters that were read out loud to members (the cult has members scattered all over the globe - most of them only have contact through the leader by their letters. David Berg is now dead, but his former wife is now the cult leader).
Berg was insane and an alcoholic who came up with bizarre new rules such as "Flirty Fishing", where members would lure in new members by having sex with them. As a result, there were a lot of pregnancies (they also have a no birth control rule). Berg's own wife had a son as a result of "Flirty Fishing" and the passages regarding that poor child were possibly the most horrifying thing I've ever read. I won't go into detail, but they self-published a book that went around the cult that showed how children should be allowed to enjoy sex (with adults and with each other) and used that poor kid as as an example.
Although this book was hard to read at times, I give Natalie a lot of respect for telling her story. I thought that she did a great job with not only telling her personal story, but also giving a good background of the cult itself.