In Cult Sister, author Lesley Smailes details the 10 years she spent in a secretive cult.
When Lesley Smailes was young, her mother, either in jest or premonition, said: "Don't get married and don't join a cult" - words that would echo for more than a decade in a mind of a girl who became a woman while caught in the snare of the cult "The Jim Roberts Group".
In Cult Sister Smailes shares the story of her life-changing 10 years spent journeying around the US as a member of this controversial religious group - living out of a backpack, having home births, living the freeman lifestyle, an arranged marriage, threats of losing her children, and surviving in strange and glorious ways.
This is her true story:
（The book is told largely through a series of letters exchanged between Smailes and her mother.）
I am a people person. I love the sense of belonging that comes from being part of a group, a greater whole. Community.
"You should have been an impala, you are so gregarious," my Granny Precious once told me. She was right.
So was my Nanny Goodness. With me tied to her back sitting straddled across her ponderous buttocks, she told my mom: "This one - her name is Thandabantu!" That means "the one who loves people" in isiXhosa.
My friends have always been important to me, especially when I was a teenager. We were rebels, wild and free.
Even now at age 52, though wiser and more circumspect, I am still an unconventional, boundary-pushing person. This has sometimes landed me in a whole lot of trouble, but it has also opened the door for some incredible adventures, leaving me with my abundance of stories.
This one has been painful to remember. How do I explain that for 10 long years I was a member of one of America's most conservative and secretive cults? That for most of the 1980s I dropped out of the world, changed the way I dressed and spoke, bought into a system of beliefs in which women are completely subservient, married a man I barely knew and had three children with him - all of this while crisscrossing the US, camping in the woods or squatting in unoccupied buildings that often had no electricity and running water, and eating food from garbage bins.
We had a lot of titles, although we referred to ourselves as "The Church" or "The Brothers". Others called us "The Bicycle Christians", "The Jim Roberts Group", "The Brethren" and some "The Raincoat People", probably because of the long garments the Brothers wore.
The less imaginative called us names like ''The Dumpster Divers" and ''The Garbage Eaters".
I know it sounds crazy, but I did it. For a whole decade I turned my back on almost everything I knew to be part of a religious group in which adherents spurned almost all modern comforts and behaved as though they lived in olden times.
Exclusive Books is hosting the launch of cult Sister next week (April 4) in Walmer. Guests at the book launch will get a chance to hear directly from the author about the life she led in Cult Sister.
Related: What is the “Jim Roberts Group” ?
The Brethren faith group “Jim Roberts Group” was founded in 1971 by Jimmy T. Roberts, a former sergeant in the Marines. Members consider Roberts to be The Elder; he is also referred to as Brother Evangelist. Outsiders sometimes call him The Prophet, although that is not a term used within the group.
The group is a nomadic religious movement. They travel around North America in groups, following a simple lifestyle. They generally remain in the United States, although they have made occasional trips into Canada and Mexico. By the middle of the year 2000, they had slightly over 100 members, organized into a number of small groups -- each under the authority of a long-term member.