In the Days of Rain
Novelist Rebecca Stott was born into an Exclusive Brethren household. In this memoir she reveals the impact of her early life on herself and her family; in particular this is also Roger her father's story. Stott family had been Brethren for four generations, her father was a preacher and her forebears church leaders. Roger, on his deathbed, asks Rebecca to tell his story. He has a pressing need to put his past to rest and has been unable to write it himself. He keeps getting stuck on the ‘bad times’: the years of persecutions and reprisals, torment of which he sees himself guilty of. The Brethren in England had broken away from the church and community, which they saw as corrupt and controlled by Satan. Initially they were worshipers, conservative and devout. Women did work outside the home, mostly in Brethren businesses, and children did go to public schools. Yet the sect was always patriarchal, the place of women was subservient - never to speak at Meetings, not to have an opinion, and to heed their male leader of the home - and children obeyed strict rules. As society pushed against conservatism as a whole, the sect become stricter. In the 1960s the biggest change occurred when an upheaval in leadership placed Jim Taylor Junior at the head of the church. Draconian and fanatical, he took this sect of the Exclusive Brethren to a whole new level, writing new texts for the members and putting in place more prayer meetings, higher expectations of worship, and cruel punishments (predominately isolation and exhausting visits from spiritual leaders) for those that were deemed to be unworthy or not adhering to minor strictures. Small things like not eating with non-Brethren had huge impact on children at schools and split families between Brethren and non-Brethren. Disallowing members to belong to professional associations lead to many losing their jobs and forsaking their careers. Brethren business and employment within the Brethren community was the only option, further isolating members, and higher education was banned. Jim Taylor’s hold was paramount and Stott’s father, Roger, despite his education and sometimes unorthodox behaviour, fell under its spell. In 1970, the 'Aberdeen Affair' would change everything for the Stott family. A sex scandal rocked the church and Roger, his father and many other family members left the group. 8000 members walked out across the Exclusive Brethren world, most joining other sects or forming breakaway groups. The Stotts did this for a few years before leaving the Exclusive Brethren completely. For Rebecca at twelve her world was turned on its ear. Going to school and watching her fellow classmates blithely enjoying their lives was a mystery to her - a child brought up to believe in the rottenness of the world, that Satan was truly alive and well in the wickedness around her, and to hold an overwhelming belief that the Rapture was just around the corner - what would happen now that she wasn't one of the chosen? Stott writes with immense clarity, striking emotion, and empathy for her father (who became a womaniser, a gambler and was eventually jailed for embezzlement), and with honesty about her childhood years, revealing the unnecessary tragedies (like that of her great-grandmother, hospitalised in a psychiatric unit for forty years for having fits and being too ‘willful’) and misconceptions of a cult, the leaders who carry responsibilities and crimes upon their shoulders, and the ordinary families adrift within and outside the cult. While all her immediate family left the church, the impact of their involvement is telling, and particularly so in her father Roger. Winning of the 2017 Costa Biography Award, this is a remarkable memoir - gripping and eloquent.
In the vein of Bad Blood and Why be Happy when you can be Normal?: an enthralling, at times shocking, and deeply personal family memoir of growing up in, and breaking away from, a fundamentalist Christian cult.
'At university when I made new friends and confidantes, I couldn't explain how I'd become a teenage mother, or shoplifted books for years, or why I was afraid of the dark and had a compulsion to rescue people, without explaining about the Brethren or the God they made for us, and the Rapture they told us was coming. But then I couldn't really begin to talk about the Brethren without explaining about my father...' As Rebecca Stott's father lay dying he begged her to help him write the memoir he had been struggling with for years. He wanted to tell the story of their family, who, for generations had all been members of a fundamentalist Christian sect. Yet, each time he reached a certain point, he became tangled in a thicket of painful memories and could not go on.
The sect were a closed community who believed the world is ruled by Satan: non-sect books were banned, women were made to wear headscarves and those who disobeyed the rules were punished. Rebecca was born into the sect, yet, as an intelligent, inquiring child she was always asking dangerous questions. She would discover that her father, an influential preacher, had been asking them too, and that the fault-line between faith and doubt had almost engulfed him.
In In the Days of Rain Rebecca gathers the broken threads of her father's story, and her own, and follows him into the thicket to tell of her family's experiences within the sect, and the decades-long aftermath of their breaking away.
COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD WINNER 2017
'Beautiful, dizzying, terrifying, Stott's memoir maps the unnerving hinterland where faith becomes cruelty and devotion turns into disaster. A brave, frightening and strangely hopeful book' Olivia Laing, author of The Lonely City
`A marvellous, strange, terrifying book' Francis Spufford, author of Golden Hill
`Stott is masterly as both a storyteller and a historian' TLS
`By rights Rebecca Stott's memoir ought to be a horror story. But while the historian in her is merciless in exposing cruelties and corruption, Rebecca the child also lights up the book, so passionate and imaginative that it helps explain how she survived, and - even more miraculous - found the compassion and understanding to do justice to the story of her father and the painful family life he created' Sarah Dunant, author of The Birth of Venus
`She's a beautiful writer and there is a powerful almost luminous quality to the book' Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love
`This book is important; ... there isn't an uninteresting paragraph in this furious and compassionate book' The Times
`In the Days of Rain is a double memoir: it describes both Rebecca's own childhood and her father Roger's life. It is not, though, in any way a misery memoir and that's what makes it such an attractive and interesting book' Spectator
`In the Days of Rain begins as an act of duty, evolves into a gripping investigation into a tangled thread of Christianity, and ends as a compassionate ode to the author's father...thoughtful and beautifully written' Sunday Times
`It is written in clear, graceful prose and lacks any trace of self-pity' Daily Mail
`Stott deploys her multiplicity of skills to good effect: as a historian, she delves into newspaper clippings, tape recordings, archive materials, a host of memoirs and books on doctrine, theology and the Exclusive Brethren. As a novelist, she makes the tale dramatic ... As an essayist, Stott weaves ideas together with ease and economy' The Guardian
Rebecca Stott is a novelist and historian. She is Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at UEA. She lives in Norwich.