cover image Heretic: A Memoir

Heretic: A Memoir

Jeanna Kadlec. Harper, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-358-58181-9

A woman reckons with the religious trauma of her upbringing and embarks on a process of self-discovery in this searing debut. Growing up in the late 1990s rural Midwest in a family devoted to the evangelical church, Kadlec led a life defined by faith, from playing the part of pious daughter to marrying the pastor’s son in 2011 and accepting the role of dutiful wife. Entering a marriage “intrinsically tied” to faith soon proved dysfunctional, even abusive, as Kadlec began to see how inextricable the lies and the indoctrination of her faith were to her understanding of the world: “to question how worthlessness, shame, and control were supposed to sit side by side with a belief in unconditional love would have been to question the foundation on which I had built my entire life.” When the unreconciled trauma of her past—including years of volatile manipulation and a physical assault by a gang of boys in her youth group—fomented a radical revelation, followed by a fraught divorce, Kadlec set out to reclaim her selfhood, her sexuality, and to relearn to love and trust, eventually meeting her girlfriend, a fellow ex-evangelical. As she recounts her disentanglement from religion, Kadlec weaves a deeply personal narrative with excoriating criticism to unpack the ways in which religious belief is sewn into the fabric of American society. The result provides a poignant story of being born again in a secular world. (Oct.)