Unfollow recounts Phelps-Roper’s remarkable upbringing in extremist Christian group Westboro Baptist Church, and the fascinating journey that led to her departure. On the group’s picket line since the age of five, her decision to leave after two decades was triggered by “strangers on Twitter who showed me the power of engaging the other”. This extraordinarily gripping memoir is one that I wish I could read for the first time all over again. Perfect for fans of Hillbilly Elegy and Educated.
- Bobbie Ryan, Dubray Blackrock
LOUIS THEROUX: 'For anyone who enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy or Educated, Unfollow is an essential text'
NICK HORNBY: 'A beautiful, gripping book about a singular soul, and an unexpected redemption'
JON RONSON: 'Her journey - from Westboro to becoming one of the most empathetic, thoughtful, humanistic writers around - is exceptional and inspiring'
It was an upbringing in many ways normal. A loving home, shared with squabbling siblings, overseen by devoted parents. Yet in other ways it was the precise opposite: a revolving door of TV camera crews and documentary makers, a world of extreme discipline, of siblings vanishing in the night.
Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church - the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church's invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God's truth. She was, in her words, 'all in'.
In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind.
Unfollow is a story about the rarest thing of all: a person changing their mind. It is a fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief, a biography of a complex family, and a hope-inspiring memoir of a young woman finding the courage to find compassion for others, as well as herself.