Don’t Call It a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM

Sarah Berman. Steerforth, $17 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-58642-275-2
Investigative journalist Berman debuts with the definitive look at the NXIVM cult, which victimized dozens of women for more than a decade at its headquarters in Albany, N.Y. Berman uses her access to former NXIVM members to detail the organization’s crimes, which included the sexual abuse of teenagers, slavery, and the branding of members with the initials of its sadistic leader, Keith Raniere. Raniere founded NXIVM as a self-help resource in 1998, promising those who joined its program happiness and purpose; his pitch ensnared such prominent people as heirs to the Bronfman fortune, a future U.S. surgeon general, and executives at Warner Music and Black Entertainment Television. Eventually, law enforcement learned of the disturbing secret side of Raniere’s operation and the multiple victims traumatized and brainwashed by Raniere and his enablers. In 2019, Raniere was convicted in federal court of sex trafficking, racketeering, and fraud, and in 2020 received a sentence of 120 years in prison. Berman’s rigorously sourced narrative brings this über-creepy story to life, and by waiting to publish until after the conclusion of Raniere’s trial, Berman has produced a more comprehensive account of the case than previous studies. This deep dive behind the headlines isn’t to be missed. Agent: Carolyn Forde, Transatlantic Literary (Canada). (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 02/08/2021
Release date: 04/20/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-7352-3789-6
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