Saturday, 15 February 2014

Anna's story

When I was writing Leaving Gilead I was all the time aware of the need to make my subject believable – and when that subject is a religious movement with beliefs and attitudes that are just plain unbelievable, it can be a bit tricky at times. The religion underlying my story was the Jehovah's Witnesses but I knew that if I showed things as they really are for many people, lots of readers simply would not believe it. The solution was a semi-fictional religious group, the Fellowship of Gilead, which I intended to be clearly based upon the Jws but which might appear realistic. And my novel traced the stories of Susan and Melanie as they freed themselves from the irrationality with which they had been brought up.

Since writing Leaving Gilead I have reconnected with the online ex-Jw community and many of the personal accounts I have heard have echoed what I portrayed in my novel. One which I read today stands out. If Anna Macaluso's story were offered as fiction who would say it is anything like reality? But Anna's story is not fiction, it is reality. It is scarcely credible that this young woman (and there are thousands of people like her) should be forced to resort to clandestine efforts to receive the medical treatment without which she would have died.

Anna'sstory had a happy ending. Many others do not. A religious movement which places its members under duress to make life-threatening decisions on behalf of their children is quite simply repugnant. Do read Anna's story and pass on the link.


lizy-expat-writer said...

Anna's story would be literally incredible if I had not known of a similar case when I was growing up. My parents befriended a girl who had been ostracised by her JW family - I was too young to know of ask why, but I remember her sadness.

Robert Crompton said...

Liz, as you say, if you hadn't known of someone who had had this experience it would be hard to believe. I guess that if disfellowshipping (expelling) and shunning were the consequence only of a over-zealous interpretation of a widely shared moral code it might, at a pinch, seem believable. But when the "offences" which can and do lead to this treatment include things such as, in Anna's case, accepting life-saving medical treatment, it's monstrous.

Other misdeeds which would receive a similar penalty include smoking, no longer believing the right doctrines and the very loosely interpreted catch-all "brazen conduct." And it happens to huge numbers of people.