Lovingly Abused: Reviews!

“Important read: This book gives a clear picture of the damage done by ATI and the IBLP. A must read. I hope this book helps many children facing this hidden abuse.”

“This is such a roller coaster of laugh-out-loud fundie inside jokes and terrible, terrible shit”

“…One of the best books I’ve ever read on growing up in the Bill Gothard homeschooling cult of ATI, and how she was able to build a life for herself after leaving. It is an immensely personal, powerful, funny, heartbreaking, and amazing story that needs to be read…”

“Can I tell you how fucking impressed I am?… Going through the whole thing is an EXPERIENCE… (Heather) managed to make it so overwhelming in the best possible way…”

“I’m only like five pages in and already I’ve laughed out loud and cried and highlighted like twenty things.”

“Just finished last night. Learned so much… I grew up in NY, just over the border from CT and if anyone had asked me if ATI was in my area, I honestly would have said no. That’s something you see in the Bible belt… Now I wonder how many kids are being hidden right in my backyard.”

The definitive book on the most popular cult you’ve never heard of: For many fans of true crime and cult studies, dangerous religious fundamentalist cults run by the likes of Gwen Shamblin, Warren Jeffs, and even Jim Jones are things that happen to “other people”. But to people like Heather Heath (and myself), one such cult defined our entire childhood and worldview. This book is a fascinating, intensely personal, well-written, and comprehensive book about growing up in the Advanced Training Institute homeschool cult run by Christian fundamentalist leader Bill Gothard. This cult achieved notable popularity in the 80s and 90s, but was largely ignored by mainstream Christianity and society as a whole. Even with the rise in popularity of their most popular adherents, the Duggar family, most people have not bothered to look into this particularly harmful cult nor the horrific worldview that it teaches to vulnerable families around the world. Heather Heath has written a book that not only exposes the cult’s teachings from her own unique perspective and vicious sense of humor, but also explores the long term effects of the cult’s indoctrination and educational neglect on her adult life as she navigates a post-cult world in her career, relationships, motherhood, and mental well being. As someone who has also had to embark on a similar journey, albeit from the perspective of a cishet male, her journey was very relatable and true to my own experience in so many ways. If you are from this background, this book can be an extra heavy read. However, Heather’s wit and unique ability to frame her experiences balance the heaviness with her relatability and inspiring outlook. By the end of the book, you will be rooting for her as she takes the trauma, neglect, and abuse she suffered under the cult, and builds a life for herself that reflects her resilience, empathy, and strength. If I had to compare this book to any others I’ve read, the closest I could compare it to is Educated by Tara Westover. But what makes Heather’s story stand out, our shared experiences aside, is the fact that everything she experienced in the cult could have been easily seen by anyone who was looking out for the safety of homeschooled children. She was not raised in a remote wilderness retreat, she was raised in an average American home and attended conferences held in arenas on public university property. As such, her book also contains a call to action to support organizations that prioritize the safety of homeschooled children. The book as a whole serves as a sobering reminder that cults thrive on secrecy and misinformation. Heather speaking her truth in this book is a strike at the very heart of the mindset that allowed her abuse to happen. To that end, this book is more than a memoir, it’s a victory cry over years of systemic abuse. I highly recommend this book.”

“Just read a few more chapters… I have to say, I LOVE her style. Her voice is so totally hers. And so totally on point. She describes what we were taught and how it affected her specifically and all of us generally so very well. Deconstruction is HARD but so very worth it.”