Lauren Drain’s memoir is essentially about an abusive relationship — though not with another person. “Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church” details Drain’s involvement with the cult-like congregation led by Fred Phelps, whose members often picket events such as soldiers’ funerals carrying signs with hate-filled messages.
The story surrounding Drain’s introduction to the church as a teenager is fascinating: Her father, a liberal atheist and aspiring filmmaker, wanted to make a documentary that would highlight the WBC’s ridiculousness. But the more time he spent with its members, the more his skepticism turned to understanding — so much so that he eventually relocated his wife and two daughters from Tampa to Topeka, Kan., to become full-time church members. Drain enthusiastically embraced her father’s new faith in order to get back into his good graces (having fallen out of his favor for chatting with a boy online).