cover image Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson

Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson

Daniel Mark Epstein. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $27.95 (475pp) ISBN 978-0-15-182688-9

At the height of her fame, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944) could draw 5000 enthusiastic followers to her Los Angeles Angelus Temple to hear her charismatic preaching and to watch lavish reenactments of biblical scenes. With prodigious research, poet and playwright Epstein ( No Vacancies in Hell ) recreates McPherson's early years as a doubter, her dramatic embrace of the gospel and her marriage to Pentecostal minister Robert Semple. After his death, she married Harold McPherson, whom she left to cross the country with her mother and children, building a tent-top, grass-roots revival and faith healing movement. The account of McPherson's later years, when she was wealthy and successful and her ``Foursquare Gospel'' ministry was wracked by sexual and financial scandal (including her own possibly faked kidnapping), is flawed by Epstein's overly sympathetic attitude. This competent portrait is not the definitive biography of its flamboyant and controversial subject. (Mar.)