You guys, I’m not gonna lie. I have been excited about reading Banished : Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain for months! I pretty much freaked out when I first saw that there was going to be a memoir from a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Unfortunately, I think I put a little too much emphasis on the word “former.” Because, after all, being banished means that Lauren Drain left the church unwillingly. I ended up having so many issues with this book that I’m not sure where to begin…and I’m also pretty sure I won’t be very nice about a lot of it.
(For the record, I’m pretty sure this is the meanest review I’ve ever written – but my censor button doesn’t stand a chance against the crap ton of loathsome behavior.)
Some of the problems I have with the book are my fault, I had pretty specific expectations. I wanted a former member of the church to be like “LOOK AT ALL THIS CRAZY SHIT THEY MADE ME DO!” and get a behind-the-scenes look into the minds of stupid, crazy people. What I got was a completely bizarre account of a girl, surrounded by the certifiably insane, and desperately wanting to be one of them. After reading the book, I got the clear impression that she would have never left the church on her own, and then there was a random epilogue tacked on to the end in which she bemoans the errors of her ways. Sense and sanity have left the building.
First of all – I read Banished by listening to the audiobook. Lauren Drain did the narration and I thought her voice was pleasant and easy to understand. But, HOLY CRAP, was the writing terrible. I’m not kidding. The timeline was all over the place. Things were choppy and extremely hard to follow. It was almost like she was telling someone the story and just said things as they came to mind, regardless of when they occurred. I think a lot more thought should have been put into ordering things more clearly (or hey, how about any thought at all?). I’m not sure if reading the actual book would have been more helpful or not as far as keeping things straight – but I kinda doubt it. (What I do know is that I want that 8 hours back.)
Another issue I had with the writing was the lack of emotion. I mean, Lauren Drain… this poor woman. Not only was she brainwashed by some of the most reprehensible lunatics on the planet, but even her own family pre-Westboro was awful. But, as her story progressed, it all felt like a dry recitation of facts by someone who’d researched the story – not lived it. It was actually a little weird. I was half afraid I’d have nightmares about the scary emotionless cult monsters coming to get me after reading about all the crap they’ve pulled.
Another big problem I had with the mechanics of the story kinda blends together with problems I have with the people themselves…all the contradictions! I was getting so frustrated by the time I was midway through the book that I’m not even sure how I managed to finish (it was a CHORE, believe me). One minute, Lauren Drain would be praising one of the members of the church to the Heavens, then a few paragraphs later she’d be talking about all their faults. An example of this is Shirley, one of the most important church members. One second she’d be a shining example of everything that is right in the world, the next minute she’d be a condescending harpy that refused to acknowledge faults within her own family (mainly her kids).
These ridiculous contradictions (which were often silly and passive aggressive) were only one of the ways Lauren Drain’s entire book felt like it was being written by an immature little kid. I fought between rolling my eyes at some of her moronic behavior and just feeling incredibly sorry for her. I mean, she lived her life for years wanting nothing more than to fit in with the rest of the WBC, but she insulted them in the same sentences as she expressed her fervent desire to be just like them. I know her emotional growth was incredibly stunted because of the people she surrounded herself with, but still. It was all just too much…
…especially once you get to the epilogue. All of a sudden she understands that being raised to hate and condemn was wrong and her views have changed and she is working on getting her life together. It sounded like it was being written by a completely different person. Throughout the entire book, it felt like she was disillusioned with the WBC but not able to give up on wanting to be one of them…and the short epilogue was too little too late.
Ultimately, I couldn’t find much of anything positive about this book. The hateful, ridiculous and ignorant behavior of the WBC is front and center, but I never got the impression that Lauren Drain found it objectionable until the bizarre epilogue at the end written by her well-adjusted clone.
To Sum it Up:
- This book was not at all what I expected, and I was incredibly disappointed by the writing style, the attitude of the narrator and the story itself.
- Everything was contradictory and felt extremely bizarre and disjointed. Kinda like a fake WBC expose written by a devotee on a crack pipe.
- (To try and end on a positive note…) An insider’s look is what I was hoping for – and even though I didn’t like the POV of the events – many of the WBC beliefs were interesting to read about.
Check out Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain on Goodreads / Amazon
…okay okay, I’m not done yet.
I mostly tried to avoid talking about the WBC itself, because obviously we all hate them. No need to go there…except that I can’t quite help it. THEY PICKETED THEIR OWN HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION, YOU GUYS. She actually struggled to decide whether to attend the ceremony or just stand with the protesters (don’t worry, I won’t leave you with a cliffhanger. She did both.) If they’re so against the “homosexual-enabling” den of iniquity that was Topeka High School, may I ask why in the holy hell they attended in the first place? I actually laughed during that section, imagining someone yelling in protest of the graduation while walking across the stage to accept their diploma. It was good to find some of their stupidity amusing since mostly it just made me want to throw up…