BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Slonim Woods 9 by Daniel Barban Levin

Slonim Woods 9 by Dan Barban Levin I watched the show The Stolen Children of Sarah Lawrence ages ago because if there's a story about a cult then I am there. In this show, which is a true story, one of the student’s dad comes to stay in the dorm with her, he just got out of prison and has nowhere else to go. So of course all the other students who live in the house are like "Of course he can stay here til he gets on his feet." Then he becomes such a pivotal part of these students' lives. He cooks for them, gives them advice, and helps them figure out their life problems. And then they all become dependent on him and his counsel and are convinced that everything he says is the truth. Guess what? It's not. He convinces all these students to live with him in an apartment in New York City, where he controls every single aspect of their lives as he becomes their cult leader. And then it becomes a cult. So this book is written by one of the guys who lived with Larry Ray in his cult. And boy was it messed up. Like Larry had them convinced that when they all moved into his apartment that they’d broken his things and he’d berate them for breaking his things or “sabotaged” him that they’d all do anything to make sure that he wasn’t mad at them. He got them all convinced that they were suicidal and broken and that only he could help them. He convinced them all that their parents were sending assassins to kill them and only he could help them. The show had actual videos of these kids epically breaking down over everything he’d gotten so mixed up in their heads. Honestly, I don't really understand how this benefitted Larry Ray, other than the money the students paid him. It seems to me that being someone that a group of people is solely dependent on is a massive pain in the ass. Larry Ray’s in jail now for life, but his daughter is still out there. And I’d love to see all these kids point the finger at the daughter for letting this insane man into their lives. But for now they have to figure out how to get their lives back.

BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music enjoyed Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls

Hang the Moon by Jeannette WallsSallie’s dad is a big deal in their county back in the early 20th century. When she was very young her mother died, Dad got remarried, then in an accident she slightly injured her half brother and her step mom freaked out. So Sallie was sent away to live with an aunt. A decade later the step mom passed away so Sallie gets to go back home to help take care of her brother. She convinces her dad to give her a role in the company, to drive to his rental properties to collect rent. Then her dad passes away and she ends up taking over everything, and she ends up getting involved in smuggling booze during a time when alcohol was illegal in the United States. Ultimately it’s a story about the family you choose rather than the family you’re born with mixed in with this powerhouse woman who is a total badass in a time when women still didn't really do that.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.