By Mikel Jollett
I was so excited to read this memoir as I have a strange fascination with cults and with the dealings of someone who has interacted or been touched by its effects.
Mikel Jollettt does an amazing job of breaking down not only the difficult subject on his experience of being born into a cult but also his life of poverty, dealings with drugs, the complications of hereditary addiction, mental illness and difficult topics. By breaking it down he makes it easy to read and understand the now uncomplicated pieces and being able to read with complete understanding.
Mikel and his older brother Tony are born into a cult formerly a commune now known as The Church of Synanon. They are born to a father who left the cult & ended up doing some time in prison and a mother who had some mental illness and didn’t have a full grasp on reality; only as she saw things. The church separated the babies at the age of 6 months from their parents, leaving them to be raised in an orphanage like structure & schooling.
But this book is not based on their lives in a cult, their mother managed to sneak the boys out years later and move them into a place of their own. One of poverty, with a mother who insisted that the boys were to take care of her during her moments of breakdowns, depression and mental illness. She had a tough time keeping a man in her life. She wanted so desperately to be loved but used the excuse of wanting a father figure for her sons. When there was no man, she expected her sons to take on the role.
This story is told from Mikel’s memories from about the age of 5 and he may be little but do not be fooled with the IQ being so high that the school wanted to move him up a few grades. He is able to tell the story of the neglect, abuse and trauma he suffered and as a result; kept him from forming healthy relationships and attachments throughout his life.
One such relationship that did not seem to suffer was the one that the boys had with their father whom the visited over summer vacation. His father slowly grew out of the man he once was and turns out to be a stable, loving father and role model for his boys. He gives them a better life. Feeds them well, clothes them, spends time with them but most of all, showing love. One year Tony stays with his father to live and Mikel must return to his mother alone. Neglected he picks up bad habits, bad friends, vices and gets in trouble. His grades take a dive and nothing matters much anymore. Music and writing lyrics get him through the time spent with his narcissistic mother. His mom constantly guilts him into fulfilling and believing things that her mind conjures up.
Eventually Mikel goes to spend the summer again with his Father but calls his mom and tells her that he is not going to return and will live with his dad. As you can imagine, she wasn’t very happy.
From here is a tale of the ups and downs of Mikel’s life, the impact of growing up in environments that were so detrimental on a child’s development. He fights to become someone, watches his brother follow in their Father’s early years footsteps and almost die, so many stories you get caught up and emotional knowing what Mikel went through. Finding himself, trying to find & hold onto love and accept the changes that comes with aging. You see Mikel Jollett become a front man in the band, The Airborne Toxic Event that currently performs and plays today.
I couldn’t put this book down as I need to know what poor Mikel and his family were going to go through next. There are some beautiful moments as well and it made me feel so happy whenever these boys got the love and affection they deserved. And to watch them struggle to accept and believe they deserved any love was hard. A brave beautiful story that must be on everyone’s TBR.