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fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science Hardcover – August 9, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Lee Woodruff Reviews fathermothergod

As co-author of the best-selling In an Instant, Lee Woodruff garnered critical acclaim for the compelling chronicle of her family’s journey to recovery following her husband Bob’s roadside bomb injury in Iraq. She recently published her second book, Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress. Her first novel will be published in summer 2012. At present, Woodruff lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband and four children.

Some of the most compelling memoirs make their marks because they allow us access to what we know is the ugly, dysfunctional side of being in a family, no matter how brightly scrubbed and polished its exterior might be.

So when someone you know writes a memoir, there is an extra dimension of interest (full disclosure, Greenhouse is a friend). Not only do you become privy to information they might not share in a prison cell, but it’s a personal invitation to look inside someone’s psyche and under the beds where all the dirty laundry and family secrets are whispering.

Ten pages into Lucia Greenhouse’s fathermothergod, I knew that this book would deliver. It was much more than a person’s disillusionment with her religion; it was a soul-searching, sometimes jaw-dropping read about how dogmatic religion can splinter a family. And it is a beautifully written account of how one woman set out to heal after walking away from the wreckage of her childhood.

I knew very little about Christian Science, and in fact, more of the religion’s history that I wanted came later in the book. Other than the famous news items and a few horror stories I’d heard in childhood about people refusing to go to the hospital, in the sixties the Christian Scientist religion seemed to me to lurk semi-shamefully in the background, its interior rituals shrouded like today’s Scientology.

A lot of what Greenhouse has to say will, I’m sure, anger the church. And she never presents the tale as anything other than her version of events. But she writes searingly about coming of age at a time when father knew best. Raised by a dominant Christian Scientist “healer” father and a compliant mother, Greenhouse writes absorbingly about her family’s inability to take aspirin or even get eyeglasses, due to their beliefs. The reader wants to scoop her up and hug her, scold the parents for their inattention and blind devotion to doctrine at the expense of bloodlines and relationships.

Greenhouse aptly sets the stage for her life--the many moves, the well-heeled trust-fund background that presumably supports them, the private schools and lifestyle (although I found myself wanting to know more about this)--so that when her mother becomes ill and is isolated by Lucia’s father, you want to rail and weep at such unnecessary waste, the careless squandering of filial love.

What haunted me about fathermothergod long after I’d flown through the pages was the thought-provoking conundrum in which religion had bound the children. What if you didn’t speak up? What if your age, those precarious years between the teens and adulthood, made you second-guess your loyalties? What if a lifetime of parental obedience was in direct conflict with the horrors that unspooled before your eyes? Greenhouse chronicles all of this in engrossing detail and the book reverberates with honesty, regret, pain, love, and then the resilience of a person determined, in the aftermath of tragedy, to write her own life’s next chapter. I heartily recommend this read.


"A courageous and finely crafted portrait of a young woman struggling with her family, her faith and that awkward space between being a child and growing into adulthood." -- Minneapolis Star Tribune

fathermothergod is a heart-wrenching coming of age memoir about the implosion of a family when Christian Science dogma encounters a mother's grave illness. It's impossible to read this and not put yourself in the author's shoes—this will take your breath away.”
—Lee Woodruff, author of Perfectly Imperfect and In an Instant

A riveting and heart-rending memoir, fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science exposes the monstrous feats of neglect fostered by this strange American manifestation of religious fanaticism. Tracing her mother’s decline and its lacerating consequences, Lucia Greenhouse knows the truth about Christian Science, and she tells it with passionate, righteous indignation.
Caroline Fraser, author of God’s Perfect Child:  Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church

"Lucia Greenhouse's book is a heart-breaking reminder of how nefarious religious zealotry can be. Her story drew me in and blew me away. This is an important addition to the genre of memoirs by children who escaped religious hucksterism and are now bravely exposing it."
—Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land

“[A] powerfully affecting memoir . . . Greenhouse’s skill in rendering family relationships under the intersecting stresses of illness and conflicting beliefs make the book worthwhile . . . reading. Wrenchingly courageous.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Through this memoir, readers will see how even those closest to us can remain a mystery.”
—Library Journal

“A touching book that puts a human face on Christian Science.”

“Rather than a journey out of a faith, this is the story of one woman’s questioning and anguish over her parents’ choices…. Teens wondering about their own faith, their parents’ expectations, and how to marry the two will find that this book resonates with them. It will also appeal to anyone wanting to know what it’s like to grow up in Christian Science…Suggest that readers have tissues close at hand.”
School Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1St Edition edition (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307720926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307720924
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,274,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christian Science survivor, mother and author of "fathermothergod" a coming-of-age memoir about growing up in a family which shunned medicine in favor of prayer.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 51 people found the following review helpful By new york, New york on August 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was born and raised in a devoted and loving Christian Science Family. I attended for a year a Christian Science high school and went to a Christian Science sleep away camp. My mother was a convert when she married my dad having been raised in the episcopal faith with a father who was a doctor and a mother who was a nurse. My memories were not as challenging as Lucias as a young child. I never questioned not going to doctors but was a bit jealous of my best friend who got lollipops when she went to hers. All was pretty rosy from my perspective until I was about 18 years old when my brother almost died from an outbreak of measles while attending a christian science school. It challenged my family to it's core. It began my own spiritual journey and I was blessed to have two parents who allowed their children spiritual freedom. But Lucia's story resonated on many levels. Many times while reading her story I found myself audibly saying UGH! I think Lucia's story is not just about christian science but about ANY faith that is taken to an extreme. Lucia's parents let their egos dictate their course. I am glad there was no serious physical challenge for Lucia and her brother and sister when they were little. Lucia's story is also about children growing up and declaring their own independence. Lucia is feisty and courageous and I cheered her bravery!
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61 of 74 people found the following review helpful By carlmn on September 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book certainly captured my attention! The author has put her thoughts into words that relive and perhaps relieve all of the emotional pain aimed at her exposure to Christian Science. The Christian Science I know, and was raised in, is completely different. How sad that one author's perspective will taint the public image of many who may never know this religion which has enlightened thousands with a sense of love and freedom...and yes, healing. The Christian Science church I am a part of sends flowers and makes visits to hospitals, never ignoring or abandoning one another in times of need. We don't deny the challenges that come our way, we rally to help, uplift and encourage with faith, prayer and love, regardless of one's choice to receive Christian Science treatment or medical care. I would not be able to profess the beneficial effects of Christian Science if I had not experienced healing myself - healings which the medical practice would call 'unexplainable'. I've had these kinds of physical healings, so I am able to live my faith as an example, without a need to force doctrine which would seem abstract without proof. My four children grew up in a household environment so assured of God's loving care for them, that there was rarely illness in our home, or a need for medical aide, which was never denied. The book portrays the kind of Christian Science practice that loses perspective of it's true mission, one beyond physical healing- which is to unite, embrace and respect with compassion every individual right where they are- in or out of medical care- with a growing recognition of their relationship to God.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A reader VINE VOICE on August 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book tells the horrifying story of the illness and tragic death of the author's mother, her father's involvement, and her family's attempt to deal with it all.

People who have been exposed to Christian Science and had difficulties with it will really find lots to identify with in this book, and will recognize familiar situations and patterns. The author writes vividly about the terrible result when beliefs like these are carried to an extreme.

Those who are unfamiliar with Christian science may not realize that this family did carry things to an extreme. Mary Baker Eddy actually stated in one edition of her main book that people who are not successful with spiritual healing could get medical attention, at least to calm to symptoms so that they can more easily pray for further healing. Also, many Christian Scientists do celebrate birthdays, do get eyeglasses, and do even go to the dentist regularly though they may not use numbing medications. There are many variations and gradations in the ways people practice.

The author does not mince words in describing her experiences as a child and adult. Her writing is powerful and quite melodramatic at times, but definitely hits home. It is so unfortunate that in our attempts to make sense of life, we humans sometimes do things that hurt, confuse, neglect, and even endanger those we love, and when the ego (desire to succeed at all costs) blinds us to the true facts of a situation, tthings can get completely out of control.

It is tragic and horrible that this woman died, and it is horrible that others have died, including children. This book is not easy to get through, but does give a valuable perspective on a confusing and disturbing subject.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras VINE VOICE on August 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Lucia Greenhouse's discussion in the last chapter of her memoire about the ambivalence and struggle which led to her final choice to go to publication struck a powerful chord with me. Her story is extraordinarily personal, and yet it represents the conflict between conviction and compassion which I sincerely believe is a universal part of the human condition.

I have a small amount of experience with Christian Science, as several of my older relatives were devotees of this religious philosophy. I remember early conversations between my own parents about this. I recall being told that one of my mother's cousins had suffered unduly as a teenager because a small facial blemish, which could have been easily corrected, was ignored for years. This eventually resulted in an inferiority complex that prevented her from dating, and she remained single all her life, though my mother believed she would have been exceptionally suited to be a wife and mother.

This, as Greenhouse so powerfully discusses, is the true cruelty of the coercive nature of Christian Science. I am not prepared to deny the reality of healing by faith or miraculous divine intervention. I AM a skeptic where it comes to assertions that these healings can be "produced" by the willful determination of humans, or that prayer should be substituted for common-sense procedures such as minor surgery, vaccination, treatment of infections, and so on. I understand that modern medicine can be equally doctrinaire and coercive at times, and that doctors often exhibit a refusal to admit their fallibility. The appropriate balance, I believe, would let medicine do what it can, and rely on prayer to support its efforts.
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