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Nancy French’s ‘Ghosted’ offers a haunting, helpful read — but not for everyone

Author recounts growing up in Churches of Christ — and her sexual assault by a preacher.

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The biggest villain — and rightly so — in Nancy French’s memoir “Ghosted: An American Story” is a preacher who gives the seventh-grader a ride home from Vacation Bible School.

“In his early twenties, he was too young to be a preacher,” French writes. “But the hiring criteria for country Church of Christ preachers was a car salesman’s enthusiasm, a firm handshake, and baptism by immersion. He preached at a rural church down the road but came to our church for midweek or evening services. His dad was an elder at our church, so he was like church royalty.”

French details how the preacher, whom she identifies only as Conrad, sexually assaulted her and changed the trajectory of her life.

Nancy French. “Ghosted: An American Story.” Zondervan. 2024. 288 pages. $29.99.

Nancy French. “Ghosted: An American Story.” Zondervan. 2024. 288 pages. $29.99.

Churches of Christ figure prominently — and generally not positively — in the life story of French, a best-selling author and ghostwriter for celebrities and conservative politicians.

The book also recounts French’s less-than-perfect time at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. 

Unresolved trauma from her abuse explains part of her negative experience at the Christian university. Theological differences play a role, too, as the writer favors a style of Christianity with a more direct manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

But Lipscomb provides one major blessing for French: The university connects her to her future husband, David French, a conservative lawyer who later earned a Bronze Star as an Army attorney and now works as a New York Times columnist.

“Ghosted” focuses on how the Frenches lost friends and colleagues alike when they became critics of Donald Trump, the twice-divorced billionaire who won the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and ascended to the White House. 

“I was a Christian Republican, too, after all,” Nancy French writes. “But why was the party of ‘family values’ rallying behind the guy who made a Playboy cameo? Hadn’t Trump bragged on video about doing to women what the preacher did to me so many years ago?”

Along with her serious exploration of sex abuse and Trump-era politics, French offers a few lighter moments — such as when the newly married couple, freshly arrived in New York City, ended up with the old phone number for David Lee Roth, lead singer for the rock band Van Halen.

“But why was the party of ‘family values’ rallying behind the guy who made a Playboy cameo? Hadn’t Trump bragged on video about doing to women what the preacher did to me so many years ago?”

Undoubtedly, not everyone will appreciate French’s book. 

Those easily triggered by theological or political ideas that might not match their own (based on my inbox, a fair number of such folks exists) probably should avoid it.

So should those who, like the leaders in French’s childhood congregation, favor protecting pedophiles and shunning victims of sex abuse over shining light on evil.

But for those open to learning better ways of dealing with predators in the pews — and for those willing to entertain the rationale behind the “Never Trump” movement, even if they disagree with it — French shares her perspective in a gripping, relatable way. 

I found “Ghosted” both haunting and helpful.

The Christian Chronicle’s Erik Tryggestad even makes two cameo appearances, as The Babbler student newspaper editor during French’s Lipscomb days.

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

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Filed under: book review books Christian convervatives church sex abuse Churches of Christ David and Nancy French Donald Trump family values Ghosted: An American Story Inside Story Lipscomb University Nancy French Never Trump Opinion President Donald Trump Reviews right-wing politics sex abuse sexual assault Top Stories

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