#397 ~ Holy Ghost Girl

Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson

Published by: Penguin

Published on: October 31, 2011

Page Count: 288

Genre: Memoir

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

My Review

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.




  • At 2012.02.08 06:07, sagustocox said:

    Its so good when a narrator finds a niche in reading a story. This isn’t the normal type of story I read, but it sounds like it held your attention and made a deep impression.

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    • At 2012.02.08 07:27, wall-to-wall books-wendy said:

      Great review! I just received this book too. I will be reading and reviewing it next month. I hope I like it.
      I am glad you mentioned “The Glass Castle” that was one of my favorite books!

      • At 2012.02.08 09:48, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

        I really liked this book too. It’s amazing how different some people’s childhoods are.

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        • At 2012.02.08 11:08, Karen White said:

          This sounds like a wonderful memoir. I didn’t read THE GLASS CASTLE but loved her (2nd?) book, HALF BROKE HORSES.

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          • At 2012.02.08 11:28, Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said:

            I’ve started to read at “My Review” so was surprised when you mentioned it was a memoir. Her life sounds like the stuff of fiction. I was a big fan of HBO’s Carnivale Series and have always been curious about these itinerant preachers of the Dust Bowl. Thanks for flagging this one!

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            • At 2012.02.08 11:28, Karen Spears Zacharias said:

              I’ve had this one in my sights. Now I’ll for sure have to read it. Thanks.

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              • At 2012.02.08 14:03, Alyce said:

                I didn’t experience charismatic churches until I started dating my husband in college. It was quite a shock since I came from a relatively conservative background (Methodist & a nondenominational church that really leaned toward conservative Baptist). It’s an easy thing to be judgmental from the outside, and it took some time for me be more open minded. I still prefer conservative churches though. 🙂 This does sound like an interesting memoir.

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                • At 2012.02.18 11:40, Literate Housewife said:

                  I’ve done some experimenting myself, but not with anything as out there as a charismatic church. I’ve found that tradition trumps experimental for me. I like the charismatic experience in books. 🙂

                • At 2012.02.08 14:38, Jac @ For Love And Books said:

                  I LOVED Glass Castle and Halfbroke Horses, so I think I’m going to have to put this book on my list! It sounds really interesting, and I’m glad to hear that the audio is good! I am looking for a new audio book.

                  -Jac @ For Love and Books

                  • At 2012.02.18 11:37, Literate Housewife said:

                    I think you’d really enjoy HOLY GHOST GIRL. It’s a completely different kind of story, but I loved that the author didn’t have that self-important “Oh, woe is me.” kind of attitude.

                  • At 2012.02.09 09:33, JoAnn said:

                    I’m intrigued. Carrington MacDuffie narrating makes me more likely to choose the audio – I thought she did an excellent job with The Paris Wife!

                    • At 2012.02.18 11:34, Literate Housewife said:

                      I think that Carrington MacDuffie did a fine job with The Paris Wife, but it bored me so much that it overshadowed her work for me. This book was far from boring. 🙂

                    • At 2012.02.10 01:56, Karen Lewis said:

                      Jennifer, I loved this book. And I can vouch for the author. It was my mother who raised her little sisters…they were my best friends growing up. I feel like I’ve come full circle… 🙂


                      Karen 🙂

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                      • At 2012.02.18 11:33, Literate Housewife said:

                        What a small, small world! I bet you have some stories to tell, too.

                      • At 2015.05.19 15:42, Joe said:

                        I will read this book based upon your review. I also wanted to comment on
                        ” 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.”
                        I grew up in a fundamentalist home and so longed to the Catholic church of my cousin. I love the ceremony, the liturgy and awe that the priest brings to the service. I was really tired of sweaty, preachers, Bible in one and and the other shaming us for our evil ways.
                        However, as a adult I have found my liturgical church and I love it.

                        (Required, will not be published)

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