Because I’m a blogger for beliefenet.com I was one of the lucky ones who received a copy of Donna Johnson’s memoir, Holy Ghost Girl, months before it was released. It will be available in bookstores tomorrow: October 13! When it arrived in the mail I was drawn by the cover and title, and, once I cracked it open, I was instantly captivated by the vivid description and fascinating story. The book is a page-turning, thrilling tale set in the 1960/70s containing adultery, KKK face-offs, fasting to the point of collapse, child neglect/abuse, show business and family connections..
When Donna was three years old her mother accepted a job as organist for tent revivalist, David Terrell. Donna grew up under the tent watching sin and miracles vie for elbow room….listening to the sounds of coins clinking in the offering plates and dancing feet stamping in the aisles. “Brother Terrell” kept two families–one being Donna’s family. Sexual deviance, greed and coercion ran rampant under that tent, yet God still chose to mingle with such people and many were genuinely healed. Author Jeannett Walls says, “(Holy Ghost Girl) takes you inside a world where God and sin and miracles and deceit and love are so jumbled together you can’t tell them apart.”
I’ll never understand why God’s presence fills places such as Bro. Terrell’s tent; maybe it’s simply because the people ask?
Donna leaves the tent life when she is seventeen years old. She is left searching for the good–the truth–in a pile of horrifying memories. Maybe it’s not as dramatic for the rest of us, but I suppose we all are searching for dimes in piles of shattered glass–looking for God in the midst of religion.
Since this dramatic story is Donna’s childhood put down on paper, it would be so easy for her to pass judgement and make conclusions. She doesn’t do such a thing. As author Rhoda Jansen says, “Memoirs don’t usually resist the obvious. This one does.”
Donna’s book is not a happy read but it is certainly thought provoking and I do recommend it. Donna sets an inspiring example of how to release shame… how to step away from the painful memories, and, without bitterness, call abuse what it is and receive healing.