Book Review of
Leaving the Witness
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.
Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah is another book that I am glad I read but really wasn’t for me. Again I love memoirs, but this one was not one of my favorites. This book has been compared to the book Educated, which I loved. I don’t really see the comparison between that two books. I found this an interesting story because I knew very little about the this group of people, but the writing didn’t draw me into the story like Educated did. And the details in this one were very graphic, and I thought contained way too many details in a few sections. I ended up skimming over several pages. This is a book I would have trouble recommending simply because parts of it are what I would consider “R” rated, and the book could have been just as good without all those “R” rated details.