Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson
Published by: Penguin
Published on: October 31, 2011
Page Count: 288
My Reading Format: Audiobook sent to me for review through Audiobook Jukebox’s Solid Gold Reviewer program
Audiobook Published by: Blackstone Audio
Narrator: Carrington MacDuffie
Audiobook Length: 9 hours and 4 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook and Audiobook
Donna Johnson’s mother grew up in a strict religious home. Her mother had a talent for playing the organ and, after a disastrous marriage, returned to her hometown with her tail tucked between her legs. She gains her footing once again when a young traveling preacher by the name of David Terrell visits her church. When Brother Terrell left town, Donna’s mother went with him, serving as the music minister. She brought her two young children with her. Donna was only three years old at the time. What follows is a childhood lived off and on the great sawdust trail blazed by Terrell and what happens when fundamentalist Christians don’t live up to the tenants of their faith.
Knowing nothing more than the premise of the memoir when I began, I found the unfolding of the story enthralling. For those readers who haven’t read a more detailed description, I am not going to discuss anything specific here. Donna Johnson has lived an extraordinary if not chaotic life. That she took the time to share the experiences of her young life is a gift. There were things that happened on that revival trail that were shameful, hurtful and dangerous. At the same time, people outside of David Terrell’s inner circle were healed in all ways possible. Johnson had all the reason in the world to simply shine the harsh spotlight on the scandalous, but she never hid those things that she cannot to this day explain. In that way I understood the draw of the tent. What’s real is what is in the heart of the believer. It matters not what is in the heart of the preacher or whether another single person under that tent believes along with you.
I was more than interested in reading this memoir and was pleased to have been selected for the Solid Gold Reviewer program. Growing up Roman Catholic, my religious upbringing was traditional and, while strict, not stifling. I was often bored of the services and wondered what it was like to have been brought up in a fundamentalist home. From the outside, those services always seemed lively and passionate. I wanted to know more. Donna Johnson wrote her memoir as if directly answering my questions. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that this was a case of the grass being greener.
Carrington MacDuffie was fantastic as narrator. She made the atmosphere of a tent revival come to life. When she narrated Brother Terrell’s sections, I was glued to the story. She brought his charisma through the speakers. The Paris Wife was my first experience with MacDuffie as narrator. While I thought she did a good job with the story, it’s clear to me now that it didn’t do her justice. She thoroughly shined while reading Holy Ghost Girl.
Holy Ghost Girl is, like The Glass Castle, an example of why I enjoy reading memoirs. Donna Johnson grew up in less than ideal circumstances and was able to grow as a result. What might have given others an excuse not to take responsibility for their lives led her to ask questions. In her memoir, she explores the past and the questions it raised without bitterness. I find memoirs like this thought provoking and inspirational. You will, too. Pick up a copy of Holy Ghost Girl and see for yourself.