Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology | Authors: Leah Remini & Rebecca Paley | Rating: 10/11 |
For most Americans, Scientology ranks among other pseudo-mythical cultural oddities, like The Illuminati, the Lunar Landing or reports of alien abductions. Tom Cruise jumping up and down in an ecstatic (and, let’s face it; creepy) declaration of love for Katie Holmes on Oprah Winfrey’s couch is the closest most people ever get to brushing shoulders with the secretive religion. But in her new book, actress Leah Remini seeks to unveil the mysteries of Scientology by narrating her experiences as an official member of the church.
Remini, who is best known for her leading role as Carrie Heffernan in the television comedy King of Queens, joined the Church of Scientology at a young age, along with her mother and older sister. After being inducted into the Sea Org – one of Scientology’s flagship churches, located in Clearwater, Florida – she spent her youth doing long, hard manual labor for very minimal pay and taking numerous Scientology courses. The doctrines of the church taught her to believe that everything that happened to her in her life, both good and bad, was directly her fault; perhaps not the easiest burden for a child to bear. She continued to practice Scientology throughout her adult life, often asking herself, ‘What would LRH (L. Ron Hubbard, science fiction author and the founder of Scientology) do?’ the way Christians ask themselves the same of Jesus. She spent millions of dollars on church courses, ‘auditing’ sessions, ‘re-training’ seminars and dubious charitable causes. Eventually, discomfort over hypocritical leaders and the church’s idolization of Tom Cruise forced her to part ways with the religion, becoming a black sheep whom no practicing Scientologist is currently allowed to communicate with.
Equal parts shocking and humorous, Remini’s book is a memoir explaining how she became a member of the church, why she stayed for so long and why she ultimately decided to leave. The narrative manages to give enough salacious detail about Scientology to stay interesting while also remaining heartfelt and honest. Readers can expect to end the experience feeling sympathetic of the heroine, who retains responsibility for her actions while still coming across as a victim of the church’s practices. One suspects that Remini’s decision to co-write her memoir was wise; the prose is detailed but concise, rich but easy to read. Rebeca Paley remains a silent partner throughout, but one whose presence is appreciatively felt nonetheless.
Troublemaker is a great bedside or travel book, in that it is both easy and engaging to read. Leah Remini’s promise to ‘be the voice for those who have none’ leaves her readers wondering what sort of memoirs might follow in her wake, as this may not be the final word on the Church of Scientology.