Holy Ghost Girl

Holy Ghost Girl

4.1 18
by Donna Johnson
     
 

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Donna Johnson's remarkable story of being raised under the biggest gospel tent in the world, by David Terrell, one of the most famous evangelical ministers of the 1960s and 70s. Holy Ghost Girl is a compassionate, humorous exploration of faith, betrayal, and coming of age on the sawdust trail.

She was just three years old when her mother signed

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Overview

Donna Johnson's remarkable story of being raised under the biggest gospel tent in the world, by David Terrell, one of the most famous evangelical ministers of the 1960s and 70s. Holy Ghost Girl is a compassionate, humorous exploration of faith, betrayal, and coming of age on the sawdust trail.

She was just three years old when her mother signed on as the organist of tent revivalist David Terrell, and before long, Donna Johnson was 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 faceoffs 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, the caravan of broken-down cars and trucks that made up his ministry evolved into fleets of Mercedes and airplanes. The glories of the Word mixed with betrayals of the flesh and Donna's mother bore Terrell's children in one of the several secret households he maintained. Thousands of followers, dubbed "Terrellites" by the press, left their homes to await the end of the world in cultlike communities. Jesus didn't show, but the IRS did, and the prophet/healer went to prison.

Recounted with deadpan observations and surreal detail, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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." - 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

"A trustworthy narrator, Johnson is consistently funny, poetic and remarkably devoid of bitterness." - Kirkus Reviews

"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, New York Times bestselling author of The- Glass Castle

"This is a thoroughly provocative memoir. Memoirs don't usually resist the obvious. This one does. You won't find Donna M. Johnson dithering in anger, cynicism, or self-pity. Holy Ghost Girl is a sensitive exploration of the power that inheres in faith communities, however flawed." -Rhoda Janzen, author of New York Times bestseller Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

"Holy Ghost Girl is a wonder of a book. Chief among its marvels is how clear-eyed and deeply compassionate Johnson is as she recounts what it was like to grow up believing all things are possible and how hard it was to leave that harsh and deeply flawed paradise to become a part of the world in all its 'gaudy glory.' With evocatively precise details, fond humor, and an utter lack of scorn or cynicism, Johnson accomplishes the camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle miracle of rendering the world through the eyes of a young child. Arriving at a time when the war between fact and faith is escalating, Holy Ghost Girl is a book that people will be talking about." - Sarah Bird, author of The Gap Year

"A wrenching 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

"Donna M. Johnson's memoir captivated me from the first page. Vividly written and richly detailed, it evokes a curious subculture that few Americans are familiar with - that of the Pentecostal revival tent, with all the spiritual and carnal ecstasy that simmer beneath it. Holy Ghost Girl is also a cautionary tale of preachers whose followers elevate them to a godhood then blind themselves to their leader's often extravagant sins." -Julia Scheeres, author of New York Times bestseller Jesus Land

"A brilliant and beautiful story of people who passionately loved God and broke his commandments in almost every way possible. The kind of story the Bible is full of, told with rare compassion and grace." -Christine Wicker, author of Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead and God Knows My Heart

"I read this gorgeous book with a hand to my throat, at once drawn to and repulsed by the story of Donna Johnson's coming of age underneath a revivalist tent. Hers was a bizarro world, and yet her voice is lush and clear and full of compassion." - Karen Valby, author of Welcome to Utopia

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.
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.
Texas Monthly
Compulsively readable'
-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."
-Beliefnet.com

"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."
-Texas Monthly

"Compulsively readable'
Kirkus Reviews
Growing up on the revivalist sawdust trail in the 1960s. Johnson was three when her mother, after a lapse in faith that left her divorced and pregnant, joined tent preacher Brother David Terrell's evangelical team as the organist. Much of this debut memoir is about the author's discovering and dealing with her mother's status--and shame--as Terrell's mistress. This chronicle of a world filled with love and sin, boredom and adventure and faith and questioning also serves as a portrait of a complex and charismatic man. Terrell was the last of the great Holy Roller preacher-healers, and his eventual fall from grace coincided with Johnson's own emancipation from the only reality she knew. Throughout her childhood, the author observed healings, exorcisms, people babbling in tongues and threats from the KKK. "The events I witnessed and the stories about these events have intertwined to form a single thread of memory," writes the author. "Sifted and shaped over time by the adults around me, my recollections have distilled into a mythology of faith, hard to believe, harder still to deny." By telling her story from a child's perspective, Johnson captures both the confusion and clarity that come with preadolescent recollection. She avoids intellectualizing and judgment through a disciplined honesty about her own struggle with faith. After living with a series of sometimes-affectionate, sometimes-abusive caretakers while her mother traveled with Terrell, Johnson saw the once-poor ministry grow into a lucrative operation. Terrell fathered three daughters with the author's mother, adding to his network of illegitimate children who traveled blindfolded to visit him on his secret properties before he was taken to prison for tax evasion. A trustworthy narrator, Johnson is consistently funny, poetic and remarkably devoid of bitterness.
Susannah Meadows
Ms. Johnson's enthralling memoir…is about growing up on the road in a clan of what she calls Holy Rollers…But it's really Mr. Terrell's show, and Ms. Johnson's account unfolds into a fascinating portrait of that preacher and the grip he had on her family.
—The New York Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592406302
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
10/13/2011
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

-Lisa Napoli

"A wrenching 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."
-Sarah Bird

"Holy Ghost Girl is a wonder of a book. Chief among its marvels is how clear-eyed and deeply compassionate Johnson is as she recounts what it was like to grow up believing all things are possible and how hard it was to leave that harsh and deeply flawed paradise to become a part of the world in all its 'gaudy glory.' With evocatively precise details, fond humor, and an utter lack of scorn or cynicism, Johnson accomplishes the camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle miracle of rendering the world through the eyes of a young child. Arriving at a time when the war between fact and faith is escalating, Holy Ghost Girl is a book that people will be talking about."
-Karen Valby

"I read this gorgeous book with a hand to my throat, at once drawn to and repulsed by the story of Donna Johnson's coming of age underneath a revivalist tent. Hers was a bizarro world, and yet her voice is lush and clear and full of compassion."
From the Publisher

"A brilliant and beautiful story of people who passionately loved God and broke his commandments in almost every way possible. The kind of story the Bible is full of, told with rare compassion and grace." -Christine Wicker, author of Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead and God Knows My Heart

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Meet the Author

Donna Johnson has written about religion for The Dallas Morning News and other publications. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, the poet and author Kirk Wilson.

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Holy Ghost Girl 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 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.
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.