Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir

Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir

4.1 19
by Donna M. Johnson
     
 

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A compassionate, humorous memoir of faith, betrayal, and coming of age on the evangelical sawdust trail.

Long before the Blues Brothers coined the term, Donna M. Johnson’s family was on a mission from God. She was just three years old when her mother signed on as the organist for tent revivalist David Terrell. Before long, Donna and her family

Overview

A compassionate, humorous memoir of faith, betrayal, and coming of age on the evangelical sawdust trail.

Long before the Blues Brothers coined the term, Donna M. Johnson’s family was on a mission from God. She was just three years old when her mother signed on as the organist for tent revivalist David Terrell. Before long, Donna and her family were part of the hugely popular evangelical preacher’s inner circle. At seventeen, she left the ministry for good, with a trove of stranger-than-fiction memories. A homecoming like no other, Holy Ghost Girl brings to life miracles, exorcisms, and face-offs with the Ku Klux Klan. And that’s just what went on under the tent.

As Terrell became known worldwide during the 1960s and ’70s, he enthralled—and healed—thousands a night, andthe caravan of broken-down cars and trucks that made up his ministry evolved into fleets of Mercedes and private jets. The glories of the Word mixed with betrayals of the flesh, and Donna’s mother bore Terrell’s children in one of the secret households he maintained. Terrell’s followers, dubbed “Terrellites” by the press, descended on backwaters across the South to await the apocalypse in cult-like communities.

Johnson’s personal story takes us into the heart of a mystical and deeply flawed family where the norms are anything but normal and where love covers a multitude of sin. Recounted with the deadpan observations and surreal detail only a kid would notice, Holy Ghost Girl bypasses easy judgment to articulate a rich world in which the mystery of faith and human frailty share a surprising and humorous coexistence.

Editorial Reviews

Beliefnet Editors
A page-turning, thrilling tale set in the 1960/70s containing adultery, KKK face-offs, fasting to the point of collapse, child neglect/abuse, show business and family connection.
From the Publisher
“What a life! Holy Ghost Girl takes you inside a world where God and sin and miracles and deceit and love are so jumbled together you can’t tell them apart. Donna Johnson sorts through her story with great insight, compassion and humor, giving us an indelible portrait of a charismatic preacher and the faithful who so desperately believed in him.”  — Jeannette Walls, author of New York Times bestsellers The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses

Holy Ghost Girl turns, as good books must, from promising read into sure bet. Ms. Johnson’s enthralling memoir, her first book, is about growing up on the road in a clan of what she calls Holy Rollers.” — The New York Times

“A page-turning, thrilling tale set in the 1960/70s containing adultery, KKK face-offs, fasting to the point of collapse, child neglect/abuse, show business and family connection.” — Beliefnet.com

“Sensitive and revelatory…an impressive achievement of perspective and maturity…a haunting and memorable book.” — Bookpage

“Compulsively readable” — Texas Monthly

“Therein lies the paradox at the center of Johnson’s story, in which faith and love live alongside anger and betrayal” — O, The Oprah Magazine

“A trustworthy narrator, Johnson is consistently funny, poetic and remarkably devoid of bitterness.” — Kirkus Reviews

“‘Holy Ghost Girl’ is the most compelling, exquisitely detailed, well-written memoir I have read in a month of Sundays.” — Tampa Tribune

“Johnson’s fascinating and sometimes disturbing personal story is mixed with serious reflection … Holy Ghost Girl tells a harrowing, sometimes funny, story from a youthful insider’s point of view.” — Dallas Morning News

"A wretching and extraordinarily beautiful memoir. If you're a fan of The Glass Castle, you'll be mesmerized by Donna M. Johnson's true-life tale of how her young life was upended by her mother's love affair with an infamous charismatic preacher." — Lisa Napoli, author of Radio Shangri-La

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592407354
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
691,108
Product dimensions:
5.35(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.76(d)

What People are saying about this

Lisa Napoli
"A wretching and extraordinarily beautiful memoir. If you're a fan of The Glass Castle, you'll be mesmerized by Donna M. Johnson's true-life tale of how her young life was upended by her mother's love affair with an infamous charismatic preacher."
Texas Monthly
“Compulsively readable”
Dallas Morning News
“Johnson’s fascinating and sometimes disturbing personal story is mixed with serious reflection … Holy Ghost Girl tells a harrowing, sometimes funny, story from a youthful insider’s point of view.”
Beliefnet Editors
“A page-turning, thrilling tale set in the 1960/70s containing adultery, KKK face-offs, fasting to the point of collapse, child neglect/abuse, show business and family connection.”
Bookpage
“Sensitive and revelatory…an impressive achievement of perspective and maturity…a haunting and memorable book.”
The Oprah Magazine O
“Therein lies the paradox at the center of Johnson’s story, in which faith and love live alongside anger and betrayal”
From the Publisher
“What a life! Holy Ghost Girl takes you inside a world where God and sin and miracles and deceit and love are so jumbled together you can’t tell them apart. Donna Johnson sorts through her story with great insight, compassion and humor, giving us an indelible portrait of a charismatic preacher and the faithful who so desperately believed in him.” — Jeannette Walls, author of New York Times bestsellers The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses
The New York Times
Holy Ghost Girl turns, as good books must, from promising read into sure bet. Ms. Johnson’s enthralling memoir, her first book, is about growing up on the road in a clan of what she calls Holy Rollers.”
Tampa Tribune
“‘Holy Ghost Girl’ is the most compelling, exquisitely detailed, well-written memoir I have read in a month of Sundays.”

Meet the Author

Donna M. Johnson has written about religion for The Dallas Morning News and other publications. Holy Ghost Girl won the Mayborn Creative Nonfiction prize as a work in progress. Donna lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, the poet and author Kirk Wilson.

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Holy Ghost Girl 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Becket More than 1 year ago
The writing was easy to follow, and the reader gets a glimpse of what it was like for a 3-year old growing to a 12-year old on the road with a traveling evangelist. Her mother made choices for their lives that were not always the best choices and put the kids in a precarious spot. Donna knows this about her mother, accepts it when she is young, and then questions her mother about it when she feels like the circumstances warrant the right to speak out. The book should have had a more conclusive ending. I would have liked to know what happened to the brother and the mother. Maybe the writer will do a follow-up after her kids start asking about religion and her childhood.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What an amazing memior.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Saw many things as a child attending tent meetings. Saw what appeared to be real healings. One was a cousin of mine. That particular meeting changed the life of her whole family. I'm sure Donna's life had to have been very confusing. God bless her for sharing the truths she shared. It makes one wonder what is really truth and what appears to be true during those meetings.
LittleCastle More than 1 year ago
This book tells the story of a family that travels with a tent revival ministry. The author shares all of the parts of their journey-the good, the bad and the downright strange. I laughed and cried as I read. I recommend this one!
SuZQ41 More than 1 year ago
This true book brought back memories of attending tent shows with my grandma and finally getting a look backstage. I found it impossible to put down.
debpaige More than 1 year ago
Hucksterism, whether secular or religious, is an ancient profession; however, tent revival hucksters and sawdust paths to repentance are things of the past. Therefore, Donna Johnson's upbringing as the stepdaughter of a tent-revival evangelist, whose ministry and personal life were characterized by both egregious hypocrisy and baffling miracles, is an important memoir that extends to a time in the recent past that feels entirely disconnected from the twenty-first century. Johnson depicts her life on the road, as the daughter of an evangelist's musician and paramour, honestly, charitably, and without rancor--a miracle in itself, if you ask me. In doing so, she demonstrates that faith cannot be reduced to easy answers of right and wrong and suggests, perhaps inadvertently, that God is more forgiving than some of us would like to believe.
efm More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this true story of life in the revival circuit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I looked forward to this book, because David Terrell is my uncle. We never knew him, and I was looking for some insight into him, perhaps to be more understanding of his choices. Instead, this reinforced most of the negative beliefs I always had about him. I think Donna did a very good job describing that life, though she did get at least one major fact wrong. David was the 7th of nine children, not the youngest of 7. It was well written, and I am glad I read it. But it did not cause me to look upon him more favorably at all. It seems he was the shyster and womanizer that he always appeared to be. Sad for all the families and kids he left behind.
sneps More than 1 year ago
Donna Johnson¿s book, titled ¿The Holy Ghost Girl¿ gives a window to those who always wonder what happens at big tent revivals and healing services. Most importantly, it sheds light into what happens when the people go home. Donna¿s experience is one not so different from those who grew up in the charasmatic churches of the South or went to the tent revials in small Southern towns¿at least from my own personal experience. However, it is still mind boggling how someone ( a leader) can call himself that and lead people into believing he is God, or at least God¿s right hand. As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Bible is the Truth and is infallible, however it can certainly get twisted when interpreted and taught for one¿s own purpose. Donna is very open in her journey, what she witnessed and how she experienced it as a child, and how it shaped her adult life and how it has impacted her spirituality today. This is a great read, one that should be read, and one that should be used as a tool to heed caution.
Anonymous 6 months ago
60143pbr More than 1 year ago
At the start of the book I thought that it might be an interesting read - as an independent Catholic it seemed to be something worth thinking about. However, the way the book ended was a real dud. I know that the author had herself backed into a corner but surely she could have come up with a better finish. Sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No point in diwnloading
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Couldn't put it down. Truth is stranger than fiction. Some parts seem to repeat but it's well worth the read. This is not an attack on anyones faith just a look into one girls life.