Yes, this is a book about Scientology. But it’s not *just* about that. In a way, this book is a typical memoir. It talks about Leah’s childhood in Brooklyn, her early career in Hollywood, and her struggles in relationships, etc. I first remember Leah from “Saved By the Bell.”
And of course, I loved King of Queens. I think her and Kevin James had great chemistry – and Jerry Stiller was brilliant. I enjoyed the anecdotes about her experiences with other big-name actors. (She has only good things to say about Tony Danza, Alyssa Milano, Jennifer Lopez, Chelsea Handler, Jennifer Aniston, and others.) She admits she is not the easiest person to get long with. She comes across as blunt and a little bitchy at times, but she also seems fiercely loyal and approachable at the same time. She’s very funny, in my view.
Okay, so now we get to the part everyone wants to know about.
Leah’s Mom joined Scientology and then her and her sister decided to follow her. They went to Clearwater, Florida to join the infamous Sea Org when she was a young teen. The Sea Org is an “elite” Scientology group made up of people who sign a contract pledging one BILLION years of their afterlife to serve Scientology and the Sea Org. So, when they reincarnate, they are expected to keep joining in each life until one billion years is up. Seriously. It’s in the contract. But, they’re saving the universe so it’s all cool.
Anyway, they show up expecting to wear cool Navy uniforms and work in a high-class, important job and end up scrubbing toilets, taking out the garbage, and earning $15 dollars a week. They sleep in dorms with bunks shoved in a small hotel room. Babies are kept lying in cribs in rooms where they are watched by kids sometimes, no one changing their diapers or playing with them. Adults and children are viewed as equals so it was perfectly acceptable for an untrained 13 year old to be watching a room full of screaming babies all alone.
Leah and her family didn’t last long in the Sea Org because, well, Leah’s a Troublemaker and all. But, you do get to see an “insider’s” view of what really happens in the Sea Org. It’s basically slave labor in squalid conditions, but hey, you get to do free Scientology training while you’re there!
Basically, she confirms that yes, it’s a cult. If you are “on track” and following the rules, it’s great. If you question anything, your life can become miserable. People have disappeared, are put in rehabilitation where they are treated like animals. Scary stuff. People go bankrupt and lose their houses trying to pay for the classes.
About Tom Cruise.
He really comes off as a jerk and a spoiled brat in this. Leah asserts that Tom is almost in control of the religion. Whatever he wants, he gets. Leah was a guest at his wedding and Katie Holmes comes off negatively. I think she was overwhelmed by Tom and totally controlled by him and the religion until she divorced him. She probably did it for the money and publicity. Apparently, Tom’s dates and girlfriends are vetted by the Scientology people.
Leah goes into a lot of information that is already common knowledge about Scientology. I was actually hoping for more about this:
I wanted more information about the upper levels of training. OT (Operating Thetan = thetan means spirit in Scientology) levels V and above. OT VIII being the highest. She doesn’t go into any of this. No whistle blower seems to. Maybe it’s because it’s the really wacky stuff, but THAT is what I want to read about, dangit! She alludes to it, makes a joke here and there, but nothing specific. I think I found this the most disappointing.
If you have no knowledge of Scientology, you’ll find this informative. There was more about Sea Org and Tom Cruise, as mentioned above. I don’t know if she will face fallout from this book. She’s brave because she mentions Scientology people by name and goes into detail about their behavior (lots of infidelity, immature behavior like taking Leah’s phone and taunting her, threats, etc.).
Oh, one other crazy thing: you are supposed to tell your counselor about EVERYTHING “wrong” you do. Leah had an affair with a married man and the church made her PAY for their marriage counseling (church counseling of course) and contact the wife and apologize. It cost her $5,000. (She still ended up marrying the guy and they have been together for over a decade, maybe two.) This kind of thing happens all the time in Scientology.
I read the entire thing in one day. Overall, this is a great memoir and expose on Scientology. I actually think *ideally* Scientology offers some positive ways to improve your life. However, it has been corrupted beyond measure and is totally cultish the way it treats its members now. Great read!