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Publisher's Summary

An “extraordinary” (Nylon) firsthand account of the creation of a modern cult and the costs paid by its young victims: a group of college roommates 

“Intense . . . [a tale] of hard-won survival, and creating a life after the unimaginable.”—Salon 

In September 2010, at the beginning of the academic year at Sarah Lawrence College, a sophomore named Talia Ray asked her roommates if her father could stay with them for a while. No one objected. Her father, Larry Ray, was just released from prison, having spent three years behind bars after a conviction during a bitter custody dispute.

Larry Ray arrived at the dorm, a communal house called Slonim Woods 9, and stayed for the whole year. Over the course of innumerable counseling sessions and “family meetings,” the intense and forceful Ray convinced his daughter’s friends that he alone could help them “achieve clarity.” Eventually, Ray and the students moved into a small Manhattan apartment, beginning years of manipulation and abuse, as Ray tightened his control over his young charges through blackmail, extortion, and ritualized humiliation. After a decade of secrecy, Larry Ray was finally indicted on charges of extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor, and money laundering.

Daniel Barban Levin was one of the original residents of Slonim Woods 9. Beginning the moment Daniel set foot on Sarah Lawrence’s idyllic campus and spanning the two years he spent in the grip of a megalomaniac, this brave, lyrical, and redemptive memoir reveals how a group of friends were led from college to a cult without the world even noticing.

©2021 Daniel Barban Levin (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Disturbing, extremely vulnerable and extraordinary. . . . A biting, observant memoir about his experience, as he excavates the reasons he was so drawn into Ray’s grasp.”Nylon

“An intense tale of coercion, humiliation, gaslighting, and physical torment. It's also one of hard-won survival, and creating a life after the unimaginable.”Salon

“Insightful and often heart wrenching . . . This book will be a tremendous help to others who have gone through something similar.”Bomb

What listeners say about Slonim Woods 9

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Harrowing

Well written, immersive. The author elegantly and deliberately walks you through the moments and the cascading states of mind, tangentially familiar to me from my and I’d imagine many others’ young adulthoods, that lead to all of this happening. It’s all so sadly, terrifyingly believable. Never lurid. It’s a journey that’s as compelling as it is difficult.

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Riveted

This personal account was so well written and brought to life by the perfect narrator. Student Daniel B. Levin speaks his truth of the horrific first hand experiences at the hands and twisted mind of L. R. during a two year period at a time in life for self discovery. Levin’s sensitive, at times poetic, style describing such evil was masterfully done.
I was up all night listening to his account of abuse and manipulation no one should ever endure. I praise your courage.

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Surprising and informative

Performance was good. The story about this group of people, lead by a sick and intelligent man, kept my interest, which is difficult to do if the story lacks . It was enlightening how the cult's leader, brain washed these people and had them perform as his sick mind wanted. The ending was satisfying!

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Excellent. Eloquent.

I had to get this book after hearing an interview with the author on a podcast I listened to. I was so impressed with his insightful account and deep understanding of his own thoughts and mindframe during this experience I had to hear more of what he had to say and I was not disappointed.

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Well worth the read!

A gripping story and told so well. Can’t wait to hear Larry’s fate. I hope it’s all he deserves.

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Excellently written. Please don’t pass this book by.

This is a story I had missed hearing in the news. It was so well written, sometimes beautiful imagery and sometimes ugly imagery, but the honesty was always there. I pass by so many audible books after listening to the sample. The narrator makes all the difference in how the story will flow. The narrator, by the author, was so deeply moving. And though I wanted to scream at him to leave so many times, I was able to walk in his shoes and understand that until he was truly ready it wasn’t going to happen. My thoughts will be with him through his recovery.

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Great story. Better in NY mag

No offense to any former cult members— you know who you are (hopefully), but it’s really, really, really difficult to feel empathy for anyone who claims to have been brainwashed and a “victim of fear. The slight caveat I have for the author of this book is that he was in college during the time of the initial seduction, so in other words, he was still basically a child.

Just like the HBO NXIM cult doc, we don’t really care to hear from the victims. We only want to hear from a) those who escaped said cult with purpose (the lawyer lady who got 8 minutes in episode 8, the whole thing should’ve been about her IMO) or b) the cult leader. We want proof of this talented & mesmerizing mastermind who suggests you, I don’t know, kill a pregnant movie star, or…shove a dildo up your ass to prove that your not gay, so that we too can possibly, slightly, understand why one would do such things “against their will.” I want to hear a story about David Koresh and be like “yeah, I kind of get it.” (I do. He was hot) or Marshall Applewhite (okay. They were all indoor quiet super nerds). The only thing I felt about the author after reading this was that he was a huge pu**y and only left the cult when he was— let’s be honest— kicked out.
Don’t do a bunch of shit or pay someone a bunch of money or pretend you are being held unwillingly without taking some responsibility for it. At the very least, don’t try to camouflage your humility with a bunch of poetry words and boring stories about how “confusing the self is” or whatever. You only dug a deeper hole for yourself dude. Levin, your either playing us with your super sensitive “moments of clarity” that seem to happen 35 times before you ever had the stones to do something, or, (the more likely option) you played yourself by having had a profoundly unique experience and not honoring it with time, patience, another therapist, and probably an MFA.

I hope the author gets to tell his story again in 20 years. After he comes out of the closet or at least admits he’s bisexual. After he takes the lens off Larry Ray and everything he did wrong, and turns it on himself. It doesn’t have to be deep. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or inspiring or hopeful or intellectual. But it does have to be honest. Start with “I was an insecure teenager with a boring dad who never taught me how to do anything. One day this guy shows up at my college who knew how to do EVERYTHING. And he said he would teach me. And I believed him.”

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Stunning and Brave

The most intimate, personal description of the cult experience I have ever read. Levin’s account of the inner turmoil, the loss of self, the loss of one’s reality at the hands of a bloviating sadistic narcissist is an exercise in outrage for any reader who has or hasn’t encountered a “leader” the likes of Larry Ray. Absolutely riveting. Moral: If anyone tries to tell you that only he knows he right way to cook an egg or eat a Ding Dong, run for your life.

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Fantastic!

Beautiful, haunting page-turner of a book. Narrate does a wonderful job and is easy to listen to.

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So accurate of the experience

Thank you for writing this. I have had two similar experiences although much less intense. But I completely related to all the questioning of one’s self, and confusion regarding the entire situation, as well as the immense Emotional manipulation. I have no doubt that the precise capturing of the experience Verbally has helped you to release it. I hope that Everyone who will be served to read this fabulous book somehow comes across it for their healing.

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