Thursday, October 6, 2016

Throwback Thursday: John Benton

In which I share vague recollections of books I read long ago that have stuck with me.

You probably don't recognize the name John Benton - I had to look it up. What I remembered was a series of books I read in the 1980s about young women who turned to drugs and prostitution. The titles of the books were all the characters' names: Sandi, Kari, Debbie, Candi, Lori, Connie, Terri, Sherri (names ending in "i" were big in the 80s.) I got them at the 5 and 10 store the next town over, which was the only place nearby that I could get books. (Of course I used the library in my town, but it was pretty small and I needed to branch out.) I bought one of these books every time I went to that store and ate them up like candy. (Or Candi? Ha!)

The trajectory of each story, as I remember it, was the same. A young woman, I think usually in high school, gets involved with the wrong crowd and starts doing drugs. She runs away or is kicked out of her house, and spirals downward. She becomes an addict and sometimes a prostitute. She may have a child (out of wedlock!) on the way. Some of her new friends die or go to jail. When she is at her most desperate, darkest point she meets someone who tells her about Jesus and in the very last 1-2 pages of the book, the woman is saved and turns her life around with the help of her new Lord and Savior. Or something like that.

The appeal to me at the time was the partying, drug-filled lifestyle. I learned what a "fix" was and how you had to always find new parts of your body to shoot up. I also learned about the dangers of prostitution, but also how necessary it was if you were a drug addict. It was all very educational and fascinating. I sorta glossed over the real message of these books, which I think was that no matter how far you've fallen, if you
just put your faith in Jesus you would be saved. It was nice to know going into each book that no matter how horrible the girl's life got, she would be ok in the end.

John Benton and his wife were actually the characters in the books who saved the girls in the end. Oh, you thought these were fiction? They probably were, but I think they were marketed as being true stories. At any rate, the Bentons ran (and still run) a place called the Walter Hoving Home, a residential religious-based program for women recovering from alcoholism, drug-addiction, prostitution, and "other life-controlling problems." They have a pretty high rating on Charity Navigator and have been highlighted in a few news stories, but other than that I didn't find much about them online. It seems pretty legit.

I was reminded of these several months ago, I don't remember why now, and did a bunch of online searching to find the author and remind myself of some of the covers. Then when I was reading Dreamland, I thought of them again and recreated my search so I could share this all with you.

Do you remember these books?

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