Book Review: Holy Ghost Girl

Author: Donna M. Johnson

Publisher: Gotham, October 13, 2011

Genre: Memoir


Donna was only three years old when her mother took a job as the organist for mega-evangelist, David Terrell. This was back in the 60s and 70s. They traveled with his enormous tent revivals throughout the U.S. Donna and her brother went along with their mother and the evangelical team.

Donna and her family became a part of the inner circle of this group, but that meant constant travel, sleeping every night somewhere new, and night after night of preaching and the performance of “miracles”.

As a child Donna didn’t know any other life. As she grew up she began to notice the differences between the outside world and the hypocrisy of the evangelist’s world. She saw the disconnect between the message preached and the behavior. She saw the extra-marital affairs of David Terrell, including her own mother. The Terrell ministry grew until the team was traveling in mercedes and jet planes. Eventually, the IRS visited and Terrell went to prison.

My thoughts:

I love memoirs and this one is one of the best I’ve read in quite a while. Donna Johnson told her story in such an honest way that she pulled all sorts of emotions out of me. I understand a little bit about the world she grew up in.

I grew up in the organized religious version of her world. We were called the Holy Rollers. We attended church often, sometimes every night if our church was sponsoring a revival. The author’s explanation of the evangelist’s services sounded very familiar. Even as a child I saw adults I knew were untrustworthy no matter what they might say from a pulpit. I’m sure young Donna Johnson saw the same thing.

Donna’s story was sad on several levels, yet told in a humorous and very smart manner. I’m sorry Donna Johnson spent her childhood in this environment. To me, the saddest part was what it did to her faith. But,  Donna is a survivor. She left her family and that world at seventeen. She went on to a productive and satisfied life. I’m glad she told her story and I recommend it to you.

Check your local library or your local bookstore for copies of this book. Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir is also available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)

I read this book as part of the TLC Book Tours. I’m the first stop on the tour. I hope you’ll check out the other stops on the tour. The schedule is here: TLC Tour of Holy Ghost Girl


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15 Responses to Book Review: Holy Ghost Girl

  1. I enjoy memoirs as well and this sounds like a pretty good one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Beth F says:

    Sounds like a memoir I’d like. We reviewed books that covered similar themes today. Mine is a novel, but the author spent part of her childhood in a religious commune. So many things to think about after reading these types of books — fiction or true story.

  3. At first while I was reading I thought it was an update to Elmer Gantry, so it was rather horrifying to see it was a real-life memoir!

  4. Barbara says:

    You’ve certainly led an interesting life, Margot. Sometime you must tell us more. I love memoirs of this kind; don’t like the ones that are just written to blow the author’s own horn.

  5. I enjoyed this book too. I was really struck by the fact that the people who claimed to be doing the Lord’s work were neglecting and abusing their children.

  6. I like memoirs too and haven’t read one for a while. This sounds interesting — the world she remembers is nothing at all like anything I’ve ever experienced — but seeing what other people’s worlds are like is the reason I like to read memoirs! One more for the list.

  7. Annie says:

    As you and Sallie I like a lot memoirs and these ones seem to be so interessant ! When I was a child (I’m in my sixties) here, in Europe we didn’t have such relogious organisations (now it begins). So I’ll be particurlarly happy to read this book, when I’ll have more time… Just three weeks to wait.

  8. JoAnn says:

    This is the first I’ve seen of this book. I enjoy memoirs, too, and it sounds like a good one!

  9. What a crazy childhood Donna must have had … I can only imagine how those experiences affected the rest of her life.

    I’m glad you found this memoir so readable and interesting. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  10. TheBookGirl says:

    When I read memoirs, they tend to be of the “ordinary person” variety as opposed to celebrity ones, so this sounds interesting to me. It’s good to know that she not only survived, but that she in fact, thrived.

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  13. Staci says:

    Loved your review, Margot. I like how you identified in some ways with this author and that to me made her experience more validated for me. I would certainly read this one based on your opinion and thoughts. Sounds wonderful and sad…too many people in power abuse it and are never what they represent themselves to be.

  14. Dougy Smith says:

    I know of the Ministry of this Rev Terrell. A man who has carried the Gospel of healing for over fifty years and goes over seas to some of the most dangerous countries without taking any offerings from the people there; Staying in dirt bag motels unlike the modern preachers of today. What I have seen is he has lived a life of sacrifice; who goes continually in back to back meetings around the world unlike any modern day evangelist of today. What blows my mind are the reviews of this book and the people who believe every word this author has to write. I can see obviously she has an axe to grind and is filled with animosity towards whatever happened in her past and is seemingly lashing out and trying to assassinate the character of an honorable man who has struggled to carry the Gospel all his life and no doubt has had some of his own earthquakes and hurricanes to deal with in his own life.
    This brings me to the question Pontius Pilate asked. “What is Truth” What IS the truth? I can’t take Donnas word due to the obvious spirit the book has been written in. She does speak of miracles and wonders even in her own life and her husbands. Which brings in mind the scripture that “If this man were not of God he could do nothing” Who REALLY knows what took place then. Maybe….. Terrell’s previous wife or wives were actually the ONES who committed adultery because he was always on the road….. and he refused to go public about it. Who knows….something to think about? This book does not ring true with what I’ve seen and heard.

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