Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir

Donna Johnson, Author
Donna M. Johnson. Gotham, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-592-40630-2
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
MP3 CD - 978-1-4551-1200-5
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-4551-1197-8
Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-4551-1202-9
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Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-1-61173-223-8
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Paperback - 278 pages - 978-1-59240-735-4
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Johnson spent her childhood in the 1960s and 1970s traveling the America's South with revivalist preacher Brother David Terrell, a hugely popular Holy Roller who brought thousands to his raucous tent sermons. But life under the tent—and under Terrell's control—was far from easy, and Johnson eloquently recounts this uncommon upbringing shaped by constant upheaval and her increasingly fraught conception of faith. Johnson's mother, Carolyn, the daughter of a pastor, joined Brother Terrell's circuit as an organist after a failed marriage, when Johnson was three. Brother Terrell, a Pentecostal "sawdust-trail preacher" in the tradition of Oral Roberts, struggled to find his footing on the evangelical circuit until an instance of alleged faith healing made him an overnight sensation; his tent crowds soon numbered in the thousands. Yet despite his success among those speaking in tongues during his sermons, day-to-day life for the Terrell family—including his wife, Betty Ann; son Randall; and daughter Pam—and those in the inner circle remained difficult, as bills went unpaid and food was scarce. As she gets older, Johnson realizes that Brother Terrell's life is anything but sinless: he fathers numerous children with other women (including three with Johnson's mother) and is later arrested for tax evasion. Leaving the tent circuit for good at 16 gave Johnson the perspective she needed for this fascinating tale of life with a "con man, a prophet, a performer." (Oct.)
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