Today I have a review of Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah. I am so grateful to Viking Books for the invitation to review this powerful memoir and for the gifted copy. Leaving the Witness publishes on June 4, 2019.
Amber Scorah is a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness. Her life is spent believing in Armageddon and spreading the word as a witness. Amber is so devout she moves to China to minister there, where it is illegal to do so.
To do what she did in Shanghai, Scorah had to use fake names and other measures to stay under the radar of the authorities. She would search for people to target who might be “safe” to approach.
She also had to look for work to make a living, and she found that in a Chinese language learning podcast. She could not tell her coworkers her true purpose. It was through this work and creativity that she was exposed to a more secular way of life, and the world opened up over time and made her question her beliefs.
Scorah ends up “escaping” from the faith and, as a result, is shunned by her family and friends. This leads to her coming-of-age in her thirties where she finds herself with no education and support to rely on.
Scorah travels to New York City where she experiences a personal tragedy. She has to make sense of it in a different way than she may have in the past.
Y’all, Leaving the Witness is a beautiful book. Amber Scorah is a force. I get chills thinking of what she experienced and where she is today. Her writing is exquisite; just the kind of sparse but powerful prose I love most.
Leaving the Witness is the inspiring and completely captivating story of Scorah’s most personal journey. The questions she raises are poignant and immensely thought-stirring. After I turned the last page, I spent several minutes processing the ending and the book. I also found this an emotional read. Scorah faces some true struggles, and the way she writes about them shows her heart and makes her completely relatable. This is a masterpiece of a memoir, and if I’ve enticed you even a little, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. I don’t give star ratings on my blog usually, but if you are curious, this is worthy of all five stars.
I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
About the Book:
A riveting memoir of losing faith and finding freedom while a covert missionary in one of the world’s most restrictive countries.
A third-generation Jehovah’s Witness, Amber Scorah had devoted her life to sounding God’s warning of impending Armageddon. She volunteered to take the message to China, where the preaching she did was illegal and could result in her expulsion or worse. Here, she had some distance from her community for the first time. Immersion in a foreign language and culture–and a whole new way of thinking–turned her world upside down, and eventually led her to lose all that she had been sure was true.
As a proselytizer in Shanghai, using fake names and secret codes to evade the authorities’ notice, Scorah discreetly looked for targets in public parks and stores. To support herself, she found work at a Chinese language learning podcast, hiding her real purpose from her coworkers. Now with a creative outlet, getting to know worldly people for the first time, she began to understand that there were other ways of seeing the world and living a fulfilling life. When one of these relationships became an “escape hatch,” Scorah’s loss of faith culminated in her own personal apocalypse, the only kind of ending possible for a Jehovah’s Witness.
Shunned by family and friends as an apostate, Scorah was alone in Shanghai and thrown into a world she had only known from the periphery–with no education or support system. A coming of age story of a woman already in her thirties, this unforgettable memoir examines what it’s like to start one’s life over again with an entirely new identity. It follows Scorah to New York City, where a personal tragedy forces her to look for new ways to find meaning in the absence of religion. With compelling, spare prose, Leaving the Witness traces the bittersweet process of starting over, when everything one’s life was built around is gone.
Have you read Leaving the Witness, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR