Holy Ghost Girl

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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 ...

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Holy Ghost Girl

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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.

Winner of the 2011 Books for a Better Life Award for Spiritual

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Editorial Reviews

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)

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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(8)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 30, 2011

    Very telling about a different kind of childhood

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    Outstanding read

    What an amazing memior.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    An eye opener. I grew up attending tent meetings.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2011

    Riveting memoir of an unusual life

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2011

    Loved It!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2011

    Captures a Piece of Dying Culture

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent

    Enjoyed this true story of life in the revival circuit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2011

    Very interesting

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2011

    Must read!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    Great reading

    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.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2014

    disappointing

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2013

    Sample does not contain any excerpts of book

    No point in diwnloading

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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