Book Review: Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove

Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  ECWPress
  • Release Date:  10.01.2013

Alternating between a woman’s childhood in a small town and as an adult in the city, this novel traces a Jehovah Witness family’s splintering belief system, their isolation, and the erosion of their relationships. As Emily becomes closer to her closeted Uncle Tyler, she begins to challenge her upbringing. Her questions about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ insular lifestyle, rigid codes of conduct, and tenets of their faith haunt her older sister Lenora too. When Lenora disappears, everything changes and Emily becomes obsessed with taking on her sister’s identity, believing that Lenora is controlling her actions. Ultimately, Emily finds release through self-mutilation. The narrative offers a haunting, cutting exploration of the Jehovah’s Witness practice and practical impact of “disfellowshipping,” proselytization, and cultural abstinence, as well as their attitude toward the “worldlings” outside of their faith. Sparse, vivid, menacingly suspenseful, and darkly humorous, Watch How We Walk simultaneously engages on emotional, visceral, and intellectual levels.

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My Review:

Religious abuse is not a pretty subject.  The fear that can be instilled in a child is chilling; horrifying to think about.  My family once adopted a puppy from our local shelter and when we brought him home we watched as he cowered from the men in our family.  You see, he had been horrifically abused by men in the home that had him before and so it was only natural that when a masculine figure approached him, his tail would go between his legs and his eyes would take on that look – you know the one I’m talking about.  Now, magnify that picture in your head and replace the dog with that of a child.  Imagine the fear that child would deal with each time their parent arrives home.  There is no joy, no happiness, no skipping to the door to receive a hug and a kiss; there is only fear. Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove tackles this incredibly complex and painful subject in a way that tore me apart.

This is not a book for the faint of heart.  Not every story has a happy ending and not every character lives with hope or a figure who will somehow swoop in and save the day.  Emily, the child in this family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, believes she may have that figure in her Uncle Tyler, her uncle who has not yet come out of the closet and accepted what the church will lay down on him as a result.  Imagine, even seeing the adult in your life who is a voice for you and dealing with the same type of fear – imagine what kind of life that would be.

Watch How We Walk is aptly named.  There is a lot of talk in various religions of not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, and Emily’s family is laid bare before the reader and we are able to see every intimate aspect of their walk.  Emily’s own actions are heartbreaking and…well, like I said, this is not a story for the faint of heart.

This would be a book I would recommend to people who are struggling to understand how religious abuse can take such a grip on a persons mind; or those who do not understand the impact that fanatic religious beliefs have on others around them.  It’s the children who suffer the most; entire childhoods ripped away and can never be restored.  Watch How We Walk is a good, hard reality check and an important book as a result.

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