Wholly Unraveled, a memoir by Keele Burgin

Wholly Unraveled, a Memoir


…it became clear that I must tell my story. I kept writing. I wrote through the fear, the doubt and the shame and I found that the other side of those emotions is authenticity, connection and belonging. The world needs everyone’s story. In order to bring mine into the light I had to become wholly unraveled.

This is my story of growing up in and escaping a Catholic cult, only to find myself chasing adrenaline and drugs in hopes of finding a shred of self-worth before finally landing in a remote community where I would live in silence, quiet the demons of my past, and find the courage to love myself.

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“Keele Burgin’s fearless memoir of a childhood trapped in an abusive cult is unforgettable: her harrowing escape and ultimate triumph over unimaginable hardship are depicted with a precision, power, and utter lack of self-pity that establish her not only as a heroic spirit, but as a gifted writer as well.”

David Auburn

Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright of Proof

“I was hooked by Wholly Unraveled. Burgin’s writing is so vivid, giving life to scenes with a minimum of words. Brilliant.”

Dr. Jane Goodall

Primatologist, Anthropologist, Author and Speaker

Keele Burgin is a living, breathing example of the triumph of the human spirit. The story of how she overcame the extreme parental abuse of her childhood is nothing short of breathtaking. Thank you, Keele, for showing us that light can always be found in darkness and that anything can be transformed by love.

Jennifer Read Hawthorne

#1 New York Times Best-Selling Author, Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul and Life Lessons for Loving the Way You Live

“Reads like a novel…Gripping.” Denver Post

“The raw, intimate story of Burgin’s abuse at the hands of her own family, a boyfriend that family adored, and the cruel cycle of self-destruction in which she found herself thereafter—that is, until she found a place of healing, both in the physical world and within herself. In this era of #MeToo, it’s exactly the sort of message readers might need: Your voice matters.” Westword

“This memoir has left me in a whole new place emotionally and philosophically. It is a brave, compelling, heart-wrenching and hopeful story.” Rachel Weaver, Author of Point of Direction


Marie Claire

Marie Claire chose Wholly Unraveled for this list of “16 inspiring memoirs by women that are more addictive than fiction,” alongside Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Tara Westover’s Educated.

Hollywood Reporter

The Hollywood Reporter chose Wholly Unraveled as a “hot new book with Hollywood appeal”.

AFAR Magazine

AFAR magazine chose Wholly Unraveled as a best summer beach read. “Through her own unraveling, Burgin weaves an inspiring tale…”

The Editor Says…

At the age of twelve, Kathleen found herself looking down the barrel of a .45-caliber pistol. Her father, one of the leaders of a strict religious cult, had found yet another cruel way to punish her for being a “rebellious” kid. Filled with pain, vulnerability, and guts, Wholly Unraveled delivers a gripping portrait of a resilient young woman who turned her deep shame into awe-inspiring dignity and grace.

That harrowing upbringing coupled with a violent assault at the age of seventeen sent Kathleen fleeing from home after high school. She finds work in a bar, fraternizes with drug dealers, and descends deep into alcohol and substance abuse until she escapes once again to the most unlikely of places, the Madonna House apostolate in rural Canada. Among missionaries, Kathleen initially struggles to wrangle the demons of her childhood before taking the first steps toward peace and healing. After months of soul-searching, she emerges with a new sense of purpose, a new name — Keele — and a new appreciation for what it means to be part of a family.

The childhood and subsequent misfortunes of Keele Burgin left me wholly breathless, as I fumbled with her from one abusive relationship, one distressing situation, after another. Not for the faint of heart, this stunning, no-frills memoir traces the emotional entanglement of an abused girl turned fractured woman struggling to find her way amid continuous trauma. Wholly Unraveled immerses the reader in the author’s story of hope and triumph in the face of nearly impossible circumstances.

Erin Calligan Mooney, Editor


For Your Book Club

Thank you for choosing Wholly Unraveled for your book clubs!!  It has been a highlight to hear how my story has impacted you and the people in your group. Keep the stories coming; I LOVE hearing from you.

Reading guide

Wholly Unraveled Reading Guide for Book Clubs

Invite me to your book club

Keele Burgin, Author

I’ve been known to show up to bookclubs via Zoom and join in on the discussion. Meeting my readers gives me so much joy.

If you would like to have me join you for your next book club please reach out here.