“Book Review: An Everyday Cult”
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
A raw and vulnerable memoir that exposes the practice of cults hidden in suburban backyards
When Gerette Buglion and her husband Frank discover The Center for Transformational Learning (CTL), they think they’re embarking on a brave new chapter in their lives. One that brings them closer to themselves, to each other, and to God. But the deeper they go, the more they lose. The once enervating sessions with Doug, CTL’s leader, become stressful and damaging. An inescapable obligation to be maintained around the stresses of work, parenting, and life.
An Everyday Cult is an eye-opening memoir that lays bare the existence of the hidden cults around us. Gerette and her husband are hard-working small-business owning parents; they’re a sort of everyday American family. But for eighteen years, they were involved in a cult that took a toll on their finances, marriage, and mental health.
Gerette’s story is an important one. Dipping into the power dynamics behind the scenes in CTL, it explores how easy it is to become enmeshed in a toxic environment that erodes a person’s character and free will. Gerette doesn’t shy away from her foibles. She unpacks the reasons why Doug’s tactics worked on her — the feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty in her friendships. The need to be part of something, and later the desire to be an inner part of something.
During her time in the cult, Gerette took extensive notes of the sessions she had with Doug and her spiritual journey. Because of this, the book is very true to the events despite the fact that it was written many years later. Most of the conversations in the book are written as they occurred in life, so there is a real sense of the narcissistic mind Gerette had to contend with. It also means that the book is heavily written from the perspective of someone still living in this cult, so it’s easy to see just why Gerette found it so hard to leave.
This book covers a lot of ground. It’s informative for readers who have no experience with cults and offers help for those who have. Throughout, Gerette makes note of authors, books, and talks that have helped her unpack her experiences. Suggestions for further reading are plentiful in the text. Though even without that, this book is a resource of its own.
A few of the stories seemed to finish abruptly or didn’t feel as though they finished. While the memoir is well-told from the perspective of someone still trapped in the cult mentality, the occasional abruptness of the endings keeps readers from Gerette’s emotional unpacking.
Still, An Everyday Cult is a raw and compelling narrative. It’s told with unflinching clarity, not shying away from the author’s faults, emotions, or vulnerability. With everything happening in the world today, Gerette is hoping for a bold new movement that will destigmatize the judgement made about people caught up in cults. This book is a fantastic step toward that goal.
Publisher: Rootstock Publishing
Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir
Print Length: 218 pages
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