Review: Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me by Ron Miscavige

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Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me by Ron Miscavige

Rating: ✮✮✮

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“The only book to examine the origins of Scientology’s current leader, RUTHLESS tells the revealing story of David Miscavige’s childhood and his path to the head seat of the Church of Scientology told through the eyes of his father. Ron Miscavige’s personal, heartfelt story is a riveting insider’s look at life within the world of Scientology.”

My thoughts:

Ever since the first memoir I read by someone who’d escaped Scientology, this cult/”religion” has really fascinated me. It really baffles me that so many otherwise intelligent people get sucked into the trap of a greedy, overbearing cult. Ron Miscavige, in his memoir Ruthless helps address this, as well as revealing some other experiences and insights, in a casual, conversational tone.

Unlike the other ex-Scientologists whose stories I’ve read, Ron Miscavige wasn’t brought into Scientology as a child. Instead, he joined as an adult, seeking new ways to explore life. From his perspective, early Scientology looks like a hippie trend, one that’s about self-exploration and fun. His early experiences don’t resemble current Scientology practices at all, if all of the memoirs and documentaries I’ve seen can be believed. I thought this part of his memoir (describing his early experiences with Scientology) was really fascinating because it’s one I haven’t really seen before.

He was directly responsible for bringing his son, current Scientology leader David Miscavige, into the organization. He believes that Scientology’s methods essentially cured David’s severe asthma, and while I’m not sure I completely believe that, I can see that some form of mindfulness might have helped. I had hoped that he would have some behind-the-scenes stories about David and some kind of insight into how he became the tyrannical leader he is today. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of this, but rather a few snapshots of interactions with David. (It could be that this is because Ron Miscavige didn’t have any real access to his son, which is in itself telling.) It seems like his only explanation for where things went wrong is that David got too much power, and power corrupts. That’s fine, I guess, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for in picking up this book.

Much of the book consists of Ron Miscavige’s personal experiences with Scientology and the Sea Org, which were interesting and basically consistent with other accounts I’ve read. I did enjoy reading about how he escaped and how he re-started his life with his wife after leaving. I do hope that eventually he’s able to talk to his children again — maybe they’ll see the light and leave the church, too.

I gave this book three stars because I felt that it had some interesting information, though much of it wasn’t particularly new at this point, but the early parts especially felt like listening to a grandpa tell a story. It felt like a series of anecdotes without much to tie them together. This made it a quick and easy read, but it gets no bonus points for great writing. I think hearing Ron Miscavige tell his story would have a bigger impact (his memoir makes me think he’s likely to be chatty and a good storyteller, and he says himself in the book that people frequently see him this way), but this was a quick read with a new(ish) perspective into the world of Scientology.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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