In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult is a memoir that lives up to its descriptive title. As her father is dying, Rebecca Stott agrees to finish his memoirs. In doing so, she tells the story of four generations including her own. Starting with her great-grandfather, her family had been part of a religious sect called the Brethren. While her family is located in England, the Protestant sect had members and various divisions throughout the world.
At the center of the story is the decade of the 1960s, which Stott’s father dramatically refers to as the “Nazi decade.” During this time, the leader of the Brethren became more and more eccentric and exclusive, essentially creating a cult rather than a religious sect. Many of their practices reminded me of Scientology, based on memoirs like Troublemaker and Beyond Belief.
Stott describes what this cult/sect felt like from her child’s view perspective. Then she goes on to research and report on what her parents and other adult church members learned at that time. Much of what happened drove families like hers from the Brethren, and leaving such a closed community has long-reaching effects. Jobs are lost and marriages wrecked, but lives can be saved as well. Scott’s descriptions of the many discipline-related suicides among cult members is chilling and depressing.
The thread among the historical accounts is Stott’s relationship with her father, Roger. He was a unique soul, to be sure. She’s unflinching in her description of his charms and his oddities. It’s apparent that Roger had an addictive personality, whether for gambling, whiskey, or religious structure. Yet she stuck by him until the end, and the love they shared was present if not always obvious.
Much of this book resonated with me because of my own unique family history. My parents raised me in an obscure and cult-like Protestant religion. Unlike the Stotts, they never left that religion although I did. I’ve often described my own dad as an odd duck, with addictive tendencies. And we loved each other deeply, like Rebecca and Roger.
Beyond the family similarities, I also found Stott’s writing easy to read. She deftly intersperses the historical details with family anecdotes and jaw-dropping religious restrictions. Ultimately, the book was an immersive experience, perhaps partly because I read most of it during the 24in48 readathon last weekend. So much of the story is sad and frustrating that I wouldn’t call this a fun book. But it’s fascinating to slip inside a quasi-religious cult without having to actually join.
Thanks to NetGalley, Random House, Spiegel & Grau, and the author for a digital advance reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review.