Slonim Woods 9: A Memoir

Crown. Sept. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9780593138854. $28. MEMOIR
Levin and his housemates in Slonim Woods 9, a residence house at Sarah Lawrence College, were an offbeat bunch, so they had few qualms about letting Larry Ray (the father of their fellow student Talia) stay at their dorm for a while. But Ray turned out to be a charismatic manipulator and con man who preyed on the insecurities of the bright but vulnerable young students; within a year, Levin and his roommates were living with the man in his Manhattan apartment, where Ray subjected them to extortion, forced labor, and physical, mental, and sexual abuse under the guise of assisting them with personal and psychological problems. Levin recounts his three years within Ray’s circle and his gradual self-liberation and recovery, offering a first-hand example of how anyone can be drawn into a cult environment, and how isolation and erosion of self-worth hamper one’s ability to recognize and free themselves from an abusive person. Levin’s writing is powerful throughout: he doesn’t dwell in shame but rather finds a way to make peace with the past and move forward.
VERDICT A poetic and intimate memoir of a harrowing ordeal. Any reader interested in the workings of cults or the experiences of people in cults will find this book worthwhile.
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