Leaving the Witness
A riveting memoir of losing faith and finding freedom while a covert missionary in one of the world's most restrictive countries.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. A coming of age story of a woman already in her thirties, this unforgettable memoir examines what it's like to start one's life over again with an entirely new identity. It follows Scorah to New York City, where a personal tragedy forces her to look for new ways to find meaning in the absence of religion. With compelling, spare prose, Leaving the Witness traces the bittersweet process of starting over, when everything one's life was built around is gone.

Leaving the Witness Details

TitleLeaving the Witness
Author
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherViking
ISBN-139780735222540
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Religion, Biography, Biography Memoir

Leaving the Witness Review

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    I have a feeling this memoir is on the cusp of something really big. If my review is the first you are hearing of it, I think you will be hearing about it again. And again. ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Amber Scorah is a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness. Her life is spent believing in Armageddon and spreading the word as a witness. Amber is so devout she moves to China to minister there, where it is illegal to do so. To do what she did in Shanghai, Scorah had to use fake names and other measures to stay under th I have a feeling this memoir is on the cusp of something really big. If my review is the first you are hearing of it, I think you will be hearing about it again. And again. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Amber Scorah is a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness. Her life is spent believing in Armageddon and spreading the word as a witness. Amber is so devout she moves to China to minister there, where it is illegal to do so. To do what she did in Shanghai, Scorah had to use fake names and other measures to stay under the radar of the authorities. She would search for people to target who might be “safe” to approach. She also had to look for work to make a living, and she found that in a Chinese language learning podcast. She could not tell her coworkers her true purpose. It was through this work and creativity that she was exposed to a more secular way of life, and the world opened up over time and made her question her beliefs. Scorah ends up “escaping” from the faith and, as a result, is shunned by her family and friends. This leads to her coming-of-age in her thirties where she finds herself with no education and support to rely on. Scorah travels to New York City where she experiences a personal tragedy. She has to make sense of it in a different way than she may have in the past. Y’all, Leaving the Witness is a beautiful book. Amber Scorah is a force. I get chills thinking of what she experienced and where she is today. Her writing is exquisite; just the kind of sparse but powerful prose I love most. Leaving the Witness is the inspiring and completely captivating story of Scorah’s most personal journey. The questions she raises are poignant and immensely thought-stirring. After I turned the last page, I spent several minutes processing the ending and the book. I also found this an emotional read. Scorah faces some true struggles, and the way she writes about them shows her heart and makes her completely relatable. This is a masterpiece of a memoir, and if I’ve enticed you even a little, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. I don’t give star ratings on my blog usually, but if you are curious, this is worthy of all five stars. I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
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  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    Never would have guessed that in a book about Jehovah's Witnesses that I would also find a mini historical look back at the beginning of the podcast era AND Alanis Morissette's breakout album "Jagged Little Pill."This book really checks so many boxes: it's a spy novel, an insider's look at a religious cult, in parts it's even a coming-of-age story. And all along, it's the memoir of one very strong woman. The journey Scorah has been on in life is truly incredible, and she courageously takes you w Never would have guessed that in a book about Jehovah's Witnesses that I would also find a mini historical look back at the beginning of the podcast era AND Alanis Morissette's breakout album "Jagged Little Pill."This book really checks so many boxes: it's a spy novel, an insider's look at a religious cult, in parts it's even a coming-of-age story. And all along, it's the memoir of one very strong woman. The journey Scorah has been on in life is truly incredible, and she courageously takes you with her through all the peaks and valleys. It's as entertaining as it is inspiring, as educational as it is personal, and as thrilling as it is tragic. It is also incredibly well written, containing bits of insight and humor that can only exist when one is baring one's soul so generously.I read a review copy of the book, and I imagine by the time it's released in June it will have already been picked up to be made into a feature film. Kinda hope it's called "You Oughta Know."
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  • Molly
    January 1, 1970
    I requested and received an ARC of this book from the publisher. All Amber Scorah knew was life as a Jehovah's Witness. Brought into the church at a young age by her grandmother, Amber conceived of the world as completely black and white, with JWs being the only people "inside the truth" and the only people who would live eternally. After a youthful indiscretion that almost got her kicked out of the church, she married a fellow JW and they embarked on a life in China as covert missionaries. Ambe I requested and received an ARC of this book from the publisher. All Amber Scorah knew was life as a Jehovah's Witness. Brought into the church at a young age by her grandmother, Amber conceived of the world as completely black and white, with JWs being the only people "inside the truth" and the only people who would live eternally. After a youthful indiscretion that almost got her kicked out of the church, she married a fellow JW and they embarked on a life in China as covert missionaries. Amber's faith unravels over the course of a few years, as she learns more about Chinese culture and alternative ways of looking at life, death, and spirituality. This happens with the patient prodding of a man she meets online through her work as a podcaster. With her marriage failing as well, Amber travels to the US to meet this man and sees how a life without Witnessing could be possible and even good. Life post-Witness isn't easy though, and Amber's struggles are really heartbreaking. The book ends almost abruptly, with her having come to no real solid conclusion about how to live life without religion and how to deal with death. That isn't really a criticism, because who among us has? Amber is very relatable despite her highly unusual life. I really enjoyed this book and her voice.
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  • Kat N
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this book. Incredibly interesting and eye-opening to see how some people have lived/are living. The author tells her story with insight and wit, and brutal honesty. I laughed and I cried (boy, did I cry), and the descriptions of Shanghai teleported me there instantly. A highly original story that needed to be told. Five stars.
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  • Don Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    I was not raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but at the age of 18 I became convinced that they had “the Truth.” But, college, my friends (especially THAT girl), and my mother’s hopes for my future delayed my decision to “give it all up for Jehovah.” But a terrible experience with drugs convinced me that the only way to find happiness was to commit fully to being a Jehovah’s Witnesses at age 20. Commitment meant dropping out of college even though my education was fully paid for by means of a I was not raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but at the age of 18 I became convinced that they had “the Truth.” But, college, my friends (especially THAT girl), and my mother’s hopes for my future delayed my decision to “give it all up for Jehovah.” But a terrible experience with drugs convinced me that the only way to find happiness was to commit fully to being a Jehovah’s Witnesses at age 20. Commitment meant dropping out of college even though my education was fully paid for by means of a grant I’d received. The hardest part was saying good-bye to my friends, though after my clumsy attempts at proselytizing, they were probably glad to be rid of me. After baptism, I became what was called a Pioneer, one who committed to spending one hundred hours a month in the preaching activity (30 more hours per month more than you, Amber. Of course, who’s counting?) After 20 years I finally left. Like Amber, it was adultery that was the lifesaver that gave me my life. I had no degree and no savings. After all, the “End” was coming in my lifetime, back there in 1991. I also experienced a kind of spiritual vertigo, drawn to religion and spirituality but still distrustful of “false religion,” i.e. anything other than Jehovah’s Witnesses. Eventually, I went back to school at age 40 and was the Outstanding Religious Studies student the year I graduated. Then, I went to Seminary and received a Master’s degree in Divinity, becoming one of the most despised people in the Witness universe, a member of the clergy. Since leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have become a proponent of interfaith and ecumenical understanding. Rather than seeing the differences between the “truth” and what everyone else believes, I understand “religion” as humanly designed systems, influenced by the culture into which they are born, that seek to answer the BIG questions. (Much too big a topic for this already too long review.) Amber Scorah’s book reminded me of the good, the bad, and the ugly of those days spent under the penetrating gaze of the Watchtower. I am so glad that she has written this book of her experiences. And while I don’t use this appellation any longer, I’d like to say, “Thank you, Sister Scorah.”
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  • Genevieve Taylor
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this heartfelt and insightful memoir of a woman raised in the intense and restrictive Jehovah's Witness religion. With clarity and empathy, she explains what it's like growing up in the religion, and why they think what they do. Her entire worldview shifts while she's preaching illegally in China, and as she learns about a culture other than her own, she begins to question the inherent 'truth' of her own beliefs.
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  • Laurel
    January 1, 1970
    Fantastic. A MUST READ for any former member of a cult or high demand religion. Honestly, so deeply mirrored my experience of leaving that it was a bit triggering, and also incredibly meaningful to me. This book accurately describes the feeling of emerging from naivete, emerging from a false world into the real world. It's traumatizing and confusing and embarrassing. It is liberating. What you see can't be unseen.
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  • Michael Sclafani
    January 1, 1970
    I can’t bring myself to rate a memoir of someone I know personally, but this is a deeply personal book of a truly remarkable person. Mostly, it is about losing one’s anchor in the world, and while her story is so peculiar, it is a feeling I venture we all know well to some extent. I know I do.
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  • Kathleen Gray
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. Amber Scorah has lived a life few can even imagine and experienced an incredible tragedy. Her life as a Jehovah Witness and her experiences in China are fascinating- there are some wonderful scenes in Shanghai. This is, however, more a story, at least to me, of coming of age and discovering truths within one's self. This isn't a comfortable process for anyone and it's not easy to convey in writing. Scorah takes a subtle approach, which I appreciated. How she copes when the worst happens fel Wow. Amber Scorah has lived a life few can even imagine and experienced an incredible tragedy. Her life as a Jehovah Witness and her experiences in China are fascinating- there are some wonderful scenes in Shanghai. This is, however, more a story, at least to me, of coming of age and discovering truths within one's self. This isn't a comfortable process for anyone and it's not easy to convey in writing. Scorah takes a subtle approach, which I appreciated. How she copes when the worst happens felt less raw than I imagine it was. Thanks to edelweiss for the ARC. This was interesting and illuminating.
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  • SusanS
    January 1, 1970
    Book Court - Where I'm the Judge and JuryCHARGE (What is the author trying to say?): To describe leaving the Jehovah Witness lifestyle.FACTS: Amber and her husband traveled to China as Jehovah Witness missionaries. Their marriage was over but their religion bound them together. “I was not allowed to leave him, so perhaps if I left enough places with him, it would suffice.” She had given up a career, education, financial security, and close personal relationships to save souls from destruction. T Book Court - Where I'm the Judge and JuryCHARGE (What is the author trying to say?): To describe leaving the Jehovah Witness lifestyle.FACTS: Amber and her husband traveled to China as Jehovah Witness missionaries. Their marriage was over but their religion bound them together. “I was not allowed to leave him, so perhaps if I left enough places with him, it would suffice.” She had given up a career, education, financial security, and close personal relationships to save souls from destruction. They arrived in China in 2–5 where her religion had been banned since the 1950’s. Because of this, they were freed from the strict requirements of multiple weekly meetings, continual study, avoidance of worldly people, etc. In Communist China they actually found freedom. The book spends a lot of time talking about the founding of the Jehovah Witness religion and how the author’s family became involved. Though I expected an abrupt climatic break, the author’s “enlightenment” was much more subtle. How does she replace her religion. Her choices are rather disturbing.VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Hung jury. I started out being sympathetic to her plight, but was very disappointed with her in the end.#LeavingTheWitness #NetGalley
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  • Jacqueline
    January 1, 1970
    This memoir chronicles Amber Scorah's experiences with Jehovah's Witness – both her upbringing in the faith as well as how she eventually left. It's a fascinating foray into a type of experience that is rarely written about, and Scorah writes about her experiences with tenderness and humor. She captures the way that religions can provide us safe narratives as well as the messiness that comes with untangling ourselves from them.
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  • Donna Hines
    January 1, 1970
    "A riveting memoir of losing faith and finding freedom while a covert missionary in one of the world's most restrictive countries.""Everyone has a cross to bear."I can't imagine 'dysfellowshipped' from the congregation for 'heavy petting.' Amber is the 3rd generation Jehovah Witness who as you can see has been involved in some risky behaviors at a young age and afterwards upon feeling trapped in a loveless marriage and turns to adultery as her go to plan.Her 47 yo father died from alcohol so the "A riveting memoir of losing faith and finding freedom while a covert missionary in one of the world's most restrictive countries.""Everyone has a cross to bear."I can't imagine 'dysfellowshipped' from the congregation for 'heavy petting.' Amber is the 3rd generation Jehovah Witness who as you can see has been involved in some risky behaviors at a young age and afterwards upon feeling trapped in a loveless marriage and turns to adultery as her go to plan.Her 47 yo father died from alcohol so there's that to contend with along with the fact she met her spouse at age 21 as he was the opposite of Thomas the man she was involved with in the sexual experimentation stage mentioned above.Thomas was disconnected and uninterested and so she longed for both excitement and love.Preaching the bible was the name of the game but it felt more like a cult to some."But if you listen to me, you will not die."Ok?! HMM well, if you're sure...She develops a Chinese podcast as part of the solution to becoming more active, engaged, involved in her religion.She meets and falls in love with Jonathan who wasn't so welcoming questioning her faith.She eventually leaves her spouse to feel free after longing to belong and have friends.While I enjoyed her writing style and use of words which shows her talent was up to par I wasn't quite fascinated with the set up here as I felt it was too much fluff in the front and middle areas.I guess I just have left to note this,"You cannot outrun what has come before."The final nail in the coffin was a heart breaker for any parent and I'm so sorry for her loss.My final notes lead me here," The only way to endure loss is to hold on to the love."
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  • Jeremy Howell
    January 1, 1970
    "Leaving the Witness" is a fascinating look into the workings of a multi-million member cult, and their underground activities in a country where they are banned - an aspect of their work that many even current members know little about.The culture shock the author experiences leads her to innocently shedding her Western assumptions and biases in order to preach more effectively, only to find that some of her beliefs may be among these assumptions she must leave behind.Amber's writing is easy to "Leaving the Witness" is a fascinating look into the workings of a multi-million member cult, and their underground activities in a country where they are banned - an aspect of their work that many even current members know little about.The culture shock the author experiences leads her to innocently shedding her Western assumptions and biases in order to preach more effectively, only to find that some of her beliefs may be among these assumptions she must leave behind.Amber's writing is easy to sink into - relatable, funny, and sometimes sad. She is exactly the type of person you would want to meet for coffee with to talk about the end of the world.A powerful story of a woman who could only find freedom in losing her religion, and how she must eventually come to terms with personal tragedy without the false hope of religion to guide her.Ideal for readers that enjoyed Tara Westover's, "Educated".Watch my YouTube review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX6aC...
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  • Andy Winder
    January 1, 1970
    A very deep and heartbreaking memoir about leaving a traumatic and repressive religion for freedom, even if that freedom is uncertain and at times tragic. I was struck by the narrator's strength and perseverance after losing so much–her family, her church community, and her child as well. That's more than I think most people could bear and that she's able to do so and reflect on it with such a sense of maturity speaks a lot to who she is.Though I'm still a part of the faith I grew up in, I have A very deep and heartbreaking memoir about leaving a traumatic and repressive religion for freedom, even if that freedom is uncertain and at times tragic. I was struck by the narrator's strength and perseverance after losing so much–her family, her church community, and her child as well. That's more than I think most people could bear and that she's able to do so and reflect on it with such a sense of maturity speaks a lot to who she is.Though I'm still a part of the faith I grew up in, I have many friends who have left and found happiness outside of religion. Would definitely recommend this book to them, as it seems like it would be cathartic and help them feel less alone.
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  • Olga
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting read about a life path I cannot relate to but I was keen to learn about. I liked both the story of the author's life as a Witness and life as a foreigner in China. Amber is a good writer and this book goes down very fast. I do have to say that the first half of the book was better than the second half in terms of both style and depth of the story (as another other reviewer pointed out). I also particularly enjoyed that the story was not exactly linear, hopping back and forth throu An interesting read about a life path I cannot relate to but I was keen to learn about. I liked both the story of the author's life as a Witness and life as a foreigner in China. Amber is a good writer and this book goes down very fast. I do have to say that the first half of the book was better than the second half in terms of both style and depth of the story (as another other reviewer pointed out). I also particularly enjoyed that the story was not exactly linear, hopping back and forth through time. It created a sense that there are layers to be peeled back and examined.
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  • LibraryLaur
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting account of the author's realization that the religion she was born into is actually a cult; she goes from zealous missionary to leaving entirely. I would have liked a little more insight into what Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine actually is, but overall this was a compelling account of one woman's journey.* Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for providing an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Amber
    January 1, 1970
    It’s not very often that a book takes my breath away. I felt I couldn’t breathe for about the last 5 minutes of the book. I cannot imagine the pain that the author went through. Prior to the end, I enjoyed this book not only for the glimpse into JW life but also for the insights into Chinese culture. Thank you Amber for sharing your story. I’m looking forward to checking out the Dear Amber podcast to learn more about Chinese culture as well.
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  • Rhonda Lomazow
    January 1, 1970
    An eye open look at the world of the Jehovahs Witnesses a group identity as a religious cult.Each moment of their lives are dictated controlled by the church.Amber Scorah shares with us herblife herbloveless marriage her life in China ordered by the church and finally leaving the church all the people all she knew and the excitement of her new life of freedom.A terrific read by a brave woman.
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  • Kevin Ashby
    January 1, 1970
    A startling personal memoir by a remarkably charismatic young woman. Vacillating between rebellion and acquiescence Ms. Scorah finds herself in China where she finds her faith crumbling under the weight of a failing marriage, newfound freedom from a controlling congregation, and her own burgeoning success. The author is brave enough to even explore those things in herself that are perhaps unflattering and that just adds to the power of her story.
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  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely loved this book.
  • Aria
    January 1, 1970
    ---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ----
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