Leaving the Witness

Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life
Narrated by: Amber Scorah
Length: 6 hrs and 56 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (579 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"À la Tara Westover's Educated, Scorah's pensive, ultimately liberating memoir chronicles her formative years as a Jehovah's Witness...and captures the bewilderment of belief and the bliss of self-discovery...[Leaving the Witness] is a suture for anyone searching to reconcile their past and present selves." (O, The Oprah Magazine - named one of "The Best Books by Women of Summer 2019") 

"Scorah's book, the bravery of which cannot be overstated, is an earnest one, fueled by a plucky humor and a can-do spirit that endears. Her tale, though an exploration of extremity, is highly readable and warm." (The New York Times Book Review

A riveting memoir of losing faith and finding freedom while a covert missionary in one of the world's most restrictive countries.

A third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Amber Scorah had devoted her life to sounding God's warning of impending Armageddon. She volunteered to take the message to China, where the preaching she did was illegal and could result in her expulsion or worse. Here, she had some distance from her community for the first time. Immersion in a foreign language and culture - and a whole new way of thinking - turned her world upside down, and eventually led her to lose all that she had been sure was true.

As a proselytizer in Shanghai, using fake names and secret codes to evade the authorities' notice, Scorah discreetly looked for targets in public parks and stores. To support herself, she found work at a Chinese language learning podcast, hiding her real purpose from her coworkers. Now with a creative outlet, getting to know worldly people for the first time, she began to understand that there were other ways of seeing the world and living a fulfilling life. When one of these relationships became an "escape hatch", Scorah's loss of faith culminated in her own personal apocalypse, the only kind of ending possible for a Jehovah's Witness.

Shunned by family and friends as an apostate, Scorah was alone in Shanghai and thrown into a world she had only known from the periphery - with no education or support system. A coming of age story of a woman already in her 30s, this unforgettable memoir examines what it's like to start one's life over again with an entirely new identity. It follows Scorah to New York City, where a personal tragedy forces her to look for new ways to find meaning in the absence of religion. With compelling, spare prose, Leaving the Witness traces the bittersweet process of starting over, when everything one's life was built around is gone. 

©2019 Amber Scorah (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“In her impressive debut, Scorah recounts her years as a Jehovah’s Witness in China, her decision to leave the faith, and her ongoing spiritual questioning...Scorah’s prose is straightforward, and she has a winning sense of humor about how much she’s changed...Scorah provides a rare glimpse into the insular world of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and her accounts of expat life and leaving her faith should give this candid memoir wide appeal.” (Publishers Weekly)

“An intriguing read about a mysterious religion....an eye-opening account of how Jehovah’s Witnesses live and operate.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Amber Scorah’s perfectly paced and sharply-written memoir opened my eyes to inner and outer worlds I’d placed in my periphery. Scorah’s gift is this wide-openness. She shares her guts, her intelligent doubt, her pain, and forgives and allows it in her reader. Her questions are answers. This is a book for the fearful and the brave.” (Leanne Shapton, author of Swimming Studies

"A fascinating glimpse into the consciousness of being an outsider in every possible way, and what it takes to find your path into the life you'd like to lead." (Nylon)

What listeners say about Leaving the Witness

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Astonishing book, delightfully read by the author

I'm hit or miss on authors reading their own books, but this one knocks it out of the park! She has a welcoming conversational reading style and I found myself talking back to the book, out loud, to the dismay of my dogs who couldn't hear the headphones. Eye-opening experiences most people wonder about without ever wanting to participate! Shines a light on what might go on in the mind of a full-time bible volunteer on her own, mostly, in a foreign country. Very interesting. Made me walk twice as far today! :-)

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Insightful and Eye Opening

So little is known about the inner guts of being a Jehovah’s Witness. So many think of ExJw as just disgruntled ones. It is refreshing to read this type of story too. Knowledge is power and when you know better you do better. Great work!

8 people found this helpful

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I’m in Awe of This Book

Wow, just wow. Never in my entire life has a book spoken to me like this one did. Where do I even start? Although the actual events of our lives differed greatly, I felt like I was hearing my own story when I heard hers. Amber Scorah is every ex-Jehovah’s Witness. A redditer called her “our Katniss Everdeen,” and now I fully understand why. She is protesting a great evil, but not by traditional means. She’s doing it simply by letting the world witness her humanity. She’s showing the rest of us how to not only survive, but also how to retain our compassion and ability to love despite the trauma and loss. She’s letting the GB know they that we continue to survive and thrive after they throw us away, and that we will no longer stay quiet. More than that, the story was a transcontinental multicultural epic. One of discovery, joy, sorrow, and rebirth. One of teaching and learning, confusion and understanding. Thank you, Amber. We’ll be forever grateful.

3 people found this helpful

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Relatable to all religions

Leaving the Witness is such a powerful and heartfelt story and is relatable to leaving any religion. The author’s words and insight are inspiring. Her heartbreak throughout her life and her passionate words helped me accept and move beyond my own religious exit. Thank you for sharing h your beautiful story!

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Preachy but Well Narrated

I enjoyed the story, although it is clear the author did not give up her evangelical tendencies. I couldn’t shake the irony as the author in one paragraph chided her former missionary-self for audaciously converting others all the while weaving in a new message of nihilism and atheism. She seems to have rebounded from one extreme to the other. That being said, it was one of the best narrated books I’ve listened to. Still preachy though.

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loved the book!

I really loved this book. It gave me so much to think about and reflect on having been raised Mormon. My story is similar in some ways with this author even though we were raised in different religions. The book is very well written and very well read, which is very important to me. Well done!

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Amazing

My grandson who is 18 just left JW one year ago. This book is so significant for me. I also want him to read it. Thank you Amber!!

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Stop reading reviews and read the book!

Move this to the TOP of your must read list NOW! ...Go on get to it :)

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Great in-depth look into JW life

Another former JW here. The author gives great insight into the lesser known beliefs and traditions of Witnesses. As a male, it was interesting to hear about the aggressions that women specifically have to deal with within the organization. Very relatable and well written.

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A must read

My thanks to the author for sharing their story. As one who has also left the religious organization of their childhood, this book offered much comfort, reassurance, and hope. I feel deeply for the pain experienced but greatly appreciate the courage to share these truths.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-09-20

Keen Observation, awakening from indoctrination

Very well written cult survivors Bio. Amber is also extremely pleasant to listen to as a narrator and gives a lively reading.

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  • ania
  • 02-16-20

Good insightful story

Good insightful story, good writing. Incredibly brave woman who had a courage to reject everything what was known to her and start her new life on her own. I also like that at any point was she spitefull towards her ex husband or lover Jonathan. She described her life with them without being nasty and spiteful towards them. Very admirable attitude that not many people present.

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  • Robert de Castel
  • 08-27-19

Great Insight

A great Insight into the psychology of why someone would join a cult-and the emotional toll of leaving.

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  • p fox
  • 07-04-19

Not just for Ex JWs

Brilliantly narrated by the author, Leaving the Witness is a powerful and moving account of leaving a high control group, ironically in totalitarian China. Loads of insights into the country as well as the Jehovah's Witness religion. A gut punch of an ending too, after escaping the clutches of the cult. Highly recommended.

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  • purplepenguin
  • 06-19-19

Delightful, moving, lyrical.

This book was like a much needed friend, that stood beside me in my own exrication from the cult. It helped make the isolation and fear that is an inevitable part of any ecit journey feel less daunting and easier to bear. Her resilience, determination and love for life shines through and gave me hope. I would recommend to anyone that wants to understand the inner journey of what it's like to wake up from indoctrination, brainwashing or any other form of mind control from a group or individual.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-11-19

Very real, honest & authentic story

This is very well written and read by the author. The experiences and situations are unique yet relatable to so many of us who are now exjws. I think active JW’s feel that ‘apostates’ blithely give up their faith hurriedly so as to pursue ‘the things of the world’ which betrays a complete lack of insight into the very long, angst ridden process of attempting to reaffirm and strengthen our faith while painfully listening to our doubts and eventually leaving the religion behind for concrete and valid reasons. Amber Scorah encapsulates this struggle very well while in the unique environment of a country where Watchtowers work is banned. Excellent book which I’d recommend.

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  • Regina Watt
  • 05-17-20

couldn't stop listening

As someone also born into the JW religion.... and leading an almost identical life, (except for the pioneering missionary!!) I found this book scarily true for me. It felt as though i were listening to my own life story being read to me by another. Grateful to know I'm not alone in my life after a cult thoughts and feelings. Brilliant book.... highly recommended

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-25-19

A rare insight - truly remarkable

Amber Scorah has approached the topic of leaving the Jehovah’s Witness faith with an inept understanding of what it is like to wake from an indoctrination that pervades your whole being and leaves you lost and bewildered and alone. Her telling of these personal events in life is done with such insight, honesty and wry humour that you cannot stop listening until the final closing words of the last chapter. It’s a rare insight because Jehovah’s Witnesses are not allowed to speak against the leaders or the teachings and so many stay silent. A must read!

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  • David Schmid
  • 06-10-19

Brilliant in every way

This is beautifully written and narrated. Completely accurate depiction of the JW life (ex elder here) and the way Amber describes her awakening and subsequent faith crisis is expertly related. She took me back to my own awakening from the cult and the sacrifices we made to grasp our freedom and real self. Thank you Amber for this wonderful, touching and at times heartbreaking account.

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  • Micah
  • 06-05-19

A wonderful story.

A great story wonderfully told. Really enjoyed listening to the lifes story told by the Author.