I have no idea where I got my copy of In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott. I knew nothing about this book when I found it on my to-be-read pile (bookcase). Realising that it was a memoir I assigned it to March because that is what I am reading this month in my 12 in 12 Challenge where I am attempting to reduce that pile of unread books and free up a bookcase in my spare room. I am very glad that I acquired this book from wherever it came.
This is the author’s story of her father’s life and her family’s involvement in the protestant denomination/sect/cult The Exclusive Brethren. There are a number of groupings connected with the church that are quite puritanical and fundamentalist in nature but the Exclusive Brethren believed in withdrawing almost completely from society and people who not part of their number. They were trying to make themselves pure for the end of the world and lived what most of us would consider a life poor in physical comforts and entertainment. Rebecca Stott’s family had been involved in the group for several generations and held quite important roles within the organisation. Her father was a preacher and leader. She is clear how important this history of involvement was for the family and also what it meant to be a member and part of the group as she grew up.
In the late 1970s the leadership of the group changed and it suddenly became more and more stringent in its requirements for withdrawal. The tactics used for challenging dissent became more bullying. Families were made to disown members who were not part of the Brethren. They couldn’t live with them or eat with anyone who was not part of the number. This led to some heart-breaking divisions with people having to leave the group and everyone they knew because they were not prepared to shut themselves away, and others abandoning family members to keep themselves pure. There is no question that coercive control was used on vulnerable people clothed in religious terms.
When the leader of the group, now definitely a cult, displayed his own weakness and the Brethren started fighting within itself the author’s family was forced into leaving the organisation and trying to make their own way in the world. The effect on the author’s father was devastating and the bitter legacy that the division caused affected very many and probably still does.
In the early 1980s I met a young woman at university who had been part of the Exclusive Brethren and I assume that her family had left at the same time that this book outlines. We only spoke a couple of times but I remember that she looked haunted and ill at ease in social situations. Given what is revealed here I have a much better understanding of what she may have gone through.
This is an eye opening book about how religious faith can become control and how difficult and damaging it can be to escape from it. I recommend this well told and understanding book especially to those who may have read Tara Westover’s book Educated which has some similarities.