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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Serpent's Tail by Deborah Thibodeau is a memoir that details the author's life, having been born with her twin sister into the infamous Arizona cult spearheaded by Leo Mercier. Mercier was one of the two “tape boys” who recorded William Branham's sermons. Many of Branham's followers followed Mercier to a commune called The Park, in which Thibodeau and her sister Esther experienced years of the most horrible abuses in the guise of Christianity. Freeing themselves physically from the cult was not the most difficult part. The emotional damage the twins suffered manifested in two completely different ways as the women tried to press forward despite the trauma of their past. “...how much can little girls scream inside? Esther and I too young to rage nothing in our shocked souls but quaking fear, sobbing endurance... nescience shattered and a real sense of terror...”
The Serpent's Tail is breathtaking. It is sad and beautiful. It is profoundly honest and exquisitely told. Deborah Thibodeau weaves her history not in prose, but in verse. Line by line, the evolution of two lives unfolds with connecting stanzas that speak of sorrow and loss, hope and a little redemption. As a mother, I am at a loss as to what could compel a parent to subject their children to forms of abuse and the breaking of spirits as if they were little more than bound horses, meant for a life of complete and unquestioned service. A life where their worth is determined by meekness and, ultimately, breeding. Esther's place in Thibodeau's memoir shows the type of abandon that comes from a girl who has been caged her entire life. Thibodeau herself is cloistered and wary. Both are survivors, one still gracing the Earth today, the other relieved of her pain once and for all. It will take me days—weeks—to process what I have just read, but I hope you will take the time to read it as well...and hear the voice of a woman who truly rose from the ashes. Very highly recommended.