cover image Rift: A Memoir of Breaking Away from Christian Patriarchy

Rift: A Memoir of Breaking Away from Christian Patriarchy

Cait West. Eerdmans, $26.99 (252p) ISBN 978-0-8028-8358-2

Survivors Discuss podcaster West debuts with a searing account of her restrictive, patriarchal Christian upbringing and how she charted her own path as an adult. Born to “conservative Presbyterian parents” in Delaware, the author grew up under an authoritarian father who frequently reminded his children that humanity is “depraved and deserving of hell.” Desperate to follow his rules or risk “eternal damnation,” West recounts learning to cook, clean, and sew to prepare for life as a homemaker; following a set of rigid and unspoken rules (“be good,” “cover up”); remaining a “stay-at-home daughter” after she turned 18; spiraling into depression following a failed romance; and beginning to question it all after beginning to research spiritual abuse in her early 20s. A few years later, she left her parents’ home to start a new life with a partner of whom they disapproved. West imbues her narrative with optimism while soberly acknowledging how deeply she internalized the repressive ideology in which she was raised (she recalls blaming herself for infertility in her 30s partly because she’d used contraception—“I defied God’s plan for my body, which was to have as many children as possible, and because of that, I don’t deserve to be a mother”). It’s a powerful meditation on what it means to be trapped and what it takes to break free. (May)