Long before the Blues Brothers coined the term, Donna M. Johnson’s family was on a mission from God. She was just three years old when her mother signed on as the organist for tent revivalist David Terrell. Before long, Donna and her family were part of the hugely popular evangelical preacher’s inner circle. At seventeen, she left the ministry for good, with a trove of stranger-than-fiction memories. A homecoming like no other, Holy Ghost Girl brings to life miracles, exorcisms, and face-offs with the Ku Klux Klan. And that’s just what went on under the tent.
As Terrell became known worldwide during the 1960s and ’70s, he enthralled—and healed—thousands a night, andthe caravan of broken-down cars and trucks that made up his ministry evolved into fleets of Mercedes and private jets. The glories of the Word mixed with betrayals of the flesh, and Donna’s mother bore Terrell’s children in one of the secret households he maintained. Terrell’s followers, dubbed “Terrellites” by the press, descended on backwaters across the South to await the apocalypse in cult-like communities.Johnson’s personal story takes us into the heart of a mystical and deeply flawed family where the norms are anything but normal and where love covers a multitude of sin. Recounted with the deadpan observations and surreal detail only a kid would notice, Holy Ghost Girl bypasses easy judgment to articulate a rich world in which the mystery of faith and human frailty share a surprising and humorous coexistence.
“Holy Ghost Girl turns, as good books must, from promising read into sure bet. Ms. Johnson’s enthralling memoir, her first book, is about growing up on the road in a clan of what she calls Holy Rollers.” — The New York Times
“A page-turning, thrilling tale set in the 1960/70s containing adultery, KKK face-offs, fasting to the point of collapse, child neglect/abuse, show business and family connection.” — Beliefnet.com
“Sensitive and revelatory…an impressive achievement of perspective and maturity…a haunting and memorable book.” — Bookpage
“Compulsively readable” — Texas Monthly
“Therein lies the paradox at the center of Johnson’s story, in which faith and love live alongside anger and betrayal” — O, The Oprah Magazine
“A trustworthy narrator, Johnson is consistently funny, poetic and remarkably devoid of bitterness.” — Kirkus Reviews
“‘Holy Ghost Girl’ is the most compelling, exquisitely detailed, well-written memoir I have read in a month of Sundays.” — Tampa Tribune
“Johnson’s fascinating and sometimes disturbing personal story is mixed with serious reflection … Holy Ghost Girl tells a harrowing, sometimes funny, story from a youthful insider’s point of view.” — Dallas Morning News
"A wretching and extraordinarily beautiful memoir. If you’re a fan of The Glass Castle, you’ll be mesmerized by Donna M. Johnson’s true-life tale of how her young life was upended by her mother’s love affair with an infamous charismatic preacher." — Lisa Napoli, author of Radio Shangri-La