Don’t Call It A Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM

by Sarah Berman

They draw you in with the promise of empowerment, self-discovery, women helping women. The more secretive those connections are, the more exclusive you feel. Little did you know, you just joined a cult.

Sex trafficking. Self-help coaching. Forced labor. Mentorship. Multi-level marketing. Gaslighting. Investigative journalist Sarah Berman explores the shocking practices of NXIVM, a cult run by Keith Raniere and many enablers. Through the accounts of central NXIVM figures, Berman uncovers how dozens of women seeking creative coaching and networking opportunities instead were blackmailed, literally branded, near-starved, and enslaved. Don’t Call It a Cult is a riveting account of NXIVM’s rise to power, its ability to evade prosecution for decades, and the investigation that finally revealed its dark secrets to the world.

My thoughts: This book turned out to be very thorough on the subject, which has been bouncing around the news for quite a few years now. It seemed that no matter how much I tried to ignore it at first, it still managed to capture my attention with the more and more bizarre stories that kept coming out. I thought I knew quite a bit for an interested reader, but I found that there was much more to it as I got further into it.

I think most are fairly familiar with the Executive Success Program, which later became NXIUM. When stories started coming out at long last, they were almost afraid to go after the story too hard and make them angry because of the money and power that had been amassed. They were known for suing those who didn’t please them, or running a campaign of harassment. But the more that was found out and then confirmed, about rumors of cult-like behaviors behind the secrecy, and worse, drove it to become a huge story. After a couple of insiders left the group and compared notes, it became clear that there was a serious problem.

For anyone with an interest in this group and what happened, this is an excellent source of information to learn about it. It’s amazing, the amount of details that seemed to have come out at the trial, and all of the craziness that was going on. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Sarah Berman, and the publisher.

Don’t Call It A Cult

Publisher: Steerforth – 336 pages
Publication: Apr 20th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS

About the author– SARAH BERMAN is an investigative journalist based in Vancouver covering crime, drugs, cults, politics, and culture. She is a former senior editor at VICE and past contributor to Adbusters, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun and other publications. 

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