An inside-look at the life of a Jehovah's Witness.
Why I love it
BOTM Editorial Team
What makes a life worth reading about? My checklist looks something like this: Is the narrator probing and self-aware? Is there an intriguing hook? Is there some element of this story that is unlike my own? And finally, above all, does the writer know how to tell a good story? With Leaving the Witness, Amber Scorah checks all these boxes.
In Leaving the Witness, Scorah recounts her life as a born and raised Jehovah’s Witness. From her childhood visiting Kingdom Hall, to her early adulthood preaching in China, to her eventual departure from the faith in her 30s, Scorah reveals what it’s like to belong to—and depart—an enclosed community. When Scorah leaves her religion—an act that isolates her from her family and friends—she finds herself alone, unmoored, and seeking a new life.
I hesitate to call this a “tell-all,” because it never feels scandalous. Scorah is a compassionate narrator who recognizes the appeal of following an insular religion even though she ultimately realized her faith did not accommodate her radically expanding worldview. If you like stories about faith, identity, censorship, and starting over, then this is the book for you.
A third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Amber Scorah had devoted her life to sounding God's warning of impending Armageddon. She volunteered to take the message to China, where the preaching she did was illegal and could result in her expulsion or worse. Here, she had some distance from her community for the first time. Immersion in a foreign language and culture—and a whole new way of thinking—turned her world upside down, and eventually led her to lose all that she had been sure was true.
As a proselytizer in Shanghai, using fake names and secret codes to evade the authorities' notice, Scorah discreetly looked for targets in public parks and stores. To support herself, she found work at a Chinese language learning podcast, hiding her real purpose from her coworkers. Now with a creative outlet, getting to know worldly people for the first time, she began to understand that there were other ways of seeing the world and living a fulfilling life. When one of these relationships became an "escape hatch," Scorah's loss of faith culminated in her own personal apocalypse, the only kind of ending possible for a Jehovah's Witness.
Shunned by family and friends as an apostate, Scorah was alone in Shanghai and thrown into a world she had only known from the periphery—with no education or support system.