Friday, October 17, 2014

Inside/Outside - Jenny Hayworth

Summary:  Award winning book - Finalist Beverley Hills Book Awards 2014
Jenny Hayworth grew up within the construct of the Jehovah's Witnesses, which she describes as a fundamentalist, cult-like religion. She devoted her life to it for over thirty years. Then she left it. The church "disfellowshipped" her- rendered her dead to those family and friends still committed to the church.

Hayworth is a sexual abuse survivor. The trauma changed her self-perception, emotional development, trust, and every interaction with the world. Inside/Outside is her exploration of sexual abuse, religious fundamentalism, and recovery.

Her childhood circumstances and tragedies forced her to live "inside". This memoir chronicles her journey from experiencing comfort and emotional satisfaction only within her own fantasy world to developing the ability to feel and express real life emotion on the outside.

It is a story that begins with tragic multigenerational abuse, within an oppressive society, and ends with hope and rebirth into a life where she experiences real connections and satisfaction with the outside world.

Those who have ever felt trapped by trauma or circumstances will find Inside/Outside a dramatic reassurance that they are not alone in the world, and they have the ability to have a fulfilling life, both inside and out. (Picture and description from

My Review: Honestly, this is a difficult review to write. What do you say when someone has poured their heart out into a book? They've shared their heartaches, their shame, the ups, the downs, everything. And not only that, but those of their children as well?

And I understand that all authors feel this way. The proverbial blood, sweat, and tears go into their writing, and whether or not it actually turns into that epic smash of their dreams, there's something to be said for the actual cathartic process of writing and getting it out and having a physical copy of all that thinking and planning and mental toil.

So with this book, that pain and cathartic process is more obvious than other books. This woman has led a tough life. Really tough. She has had some genuinely difficult problems, many forced upon her by those she loved and trusted, and she has tried her best to overcome them. She made difficult choices and distanced herself from the only support she had, at times making things worse, but always trying again and not giving up.  The writing is not necessarily stellar, although I think it is definitely comparable to others in this genre. It is written in almost disconnected chapters with random anecdotes here and there, which makes it seem journal-like and unfinished in places, but all that being said, it is powerful in its honesty and rawness. And horrible. Because she has encountered some truly horrible people. It's heartbreaking and tough to read, especially when both she as a child as well as her children are involved in repeated sexual abuse.

As far as the Jehovah's Witness aspect is concerned, although her descriptions of them and their practices and beliefs seemed extreme, I'm not sure that labeling it a "cult" was fair, and possibly more just a label from the publishers. However, that does not excuse how she was treated by them or their seemingly close-minded beliefs on things like sexual abuse and mental illness.

I don't feel that this book offered a lot of hope or redemption in the end, but I do think that it was certainly helpful to the author and to any others who have experienced such abuse, isolation, and related problems that go with those unfortunate experiences. This book is a testament to the bravery of the author and the resiliency of the human spirit. It is certainly a book I would suggest to anyone who has experienced abuse in various forms, or persecution from within their own religion and who is looking for someone to relate to and commiserate with.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating:  3 stars

For the sensitive reader: This is a tough read that includes sexual abuse of adults and children, and although it is not irreverent in its description, it is graphic.

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