LEAVING THE WITNESS: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life. By Amber Scorah. Viking. 288 pages. $28.
As an adolescent Jehovah’s Witness, Amber Scorah knocked on plenty of doors and assigned each house a two- or three-letter code.
NH for not home; B-CA for busy, call again; DNC for do not call, if a resident was unusually threatening. She also knew if you were that person who hid behind the curtains pretending you weren’t home.
In a new memoir, Scorah chronicles her experience in the Jehovah’s Witness faith and ultimately leaving it to start an entirely different life.
“Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life” is a deeply personal and detailed exposition that, at times, is difficult to read. But you will be better for it should you choose to do so.
Born into the Jehovah’s Witness faith, the writer’s entire world was comprised of the religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged in working or socializing unless these pursuits center on the faith. The same goes for higher education.
“Leaving the Witness” opens as the author recounts her move from Vancouver to Shanghai, an adventure she hoped would invigorate her marriage.
Jehovah’s Witness activities are illegal in China, so the pair had to conduct their missionary work in secret. The couple’s proselytizing most often started as an outside-the-faith relationship and this is where things unfurled.
Scorah takes a job producing podcasts and meets an American man who exposes her to ideas she hasn’t before considered.
“A religious person learns to live with a divided heart, one that does not acknowledge what it does not want to admit to itself,” she writes. She eventually leaves the religion, though it’s the church that kicks her out, and starts over.
Because all of Scorah’s friends and family are Witnesses, she is excommunicated and grapples with losing everyone from her past. To be sure, abandonment is a traumatic circumstance.
“Leaving the Witness” is a fully engrossing story. It is a stark reminder that nothing is permanent. Readers will walk away with a keen understanding of this secretive religion.
Her prose is clean and easy to follow, but it’s the final chapter that’s exquisitely written. It’s quite possible Scorah has executed a perfect final line for the story.