Saturday, February 4, 2012

Book Review: Holy Ghost Girl

Author: Donna M. Johnson
Title: Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir
Description: A single mother with two small children, Donna Johnson’s mother still felt a call to the ministry which prompted her to leave her Assemblies of God clergy parents’ home to join the entourage of revivalist David Terrell.  A tent-preacher in the faith-healing tradition of Oral Roberts, Terrell and his small group of followers traveled from town to town, mostly in the civil rights era South, holding revival meetings. From the time she was a toddler, Johnson grew up attending several preaching services a day, witnessing healings and speaking in tongues as everyday events, and associating only with other holiness converts.
ARC source: I received this book as a part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.
Writing style: Previous books that I’ve read in this genre tend to be pretty tongue-in-cheek, demonstrating that the author now knows better than to believe all that claptrap. And you have to admit that this type of lifestyle, while not generally prone to drunkenness and high living, has its own extremes. I was surprised at Johnson’s even-handed approach. While she does not cover up the flaws of the adults involved (Terrell was sexually involved with several women in the group in addition to his wife and Johnson’s mother seemed to have many priorities higher than parenthood), she also readily affirms the good memories and the seemingly miraculous events that surround Terrell.
Audience: This book will appeal to those who enjoy reading memoirs and those interested in revivalism and religious history.
Major ideas: Although Johnson felt like her family was mostly broken, as an adult she comes to realize that perhaps she can define “family” in a way that will include the jumble of people who surround David Terrell. She also seems surprised that she has managed to become as normal of an adult as she seems to be.
Wrap-up:  I had a not dissimilar upbringing, so maybe I was way more fascinated by this book than other folks would be, but it still struck me as being gracefully written, evenly paced, and always fascinating. 4.5/5*

I'm claiming this book for two reading challenges: the new author challenge (9/15) and the Memorable Memoirs challenge (2/4).


  1. I love memoir, too, and it has been a while since I've read one I've loved. Off to add this one to my wish list.

  2. I also love Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner.