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fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science Hardcover – August 9, 2011
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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
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I was raised as Lucia was, by parents who had the answer to everything, who knew the truth, or Truth, and told me things that I later learned were NOT true. Maybe you were too. Lucia tells her story in a way that grabs hold of you in the first pages and refuses to let go until you get to the final page to find out how she is doing now, many years later. If you want to know what the story is about, then read the description above or the comments of other readers. I won't tell you. I recommend that you take my simple advice: BUY this book and READ it! Your mind will travel to areas that few (if any) book has taken you. I was connected to my own mother's fight with cancer, to the prayers of my family (but not my own) with the hope of divine healing. I saw in Lucia's relationship with her family, aunts, uncles, grandma, siblings, something of my own relationships, as I'm the one who has left my parent's faith (or belief system), just like Lucia and her siblings. I am on a journey, a mental and emotional and spiritual trek across the globe, trying to understand how people choose a religion, like this one, and how one is forced on them in childhood by parents or society, and how many reject the faith that their parents immersed them in and yet go on living a fun and exciting life despite the memories. I wonder about Lucia, and how she has survived her own childhood and adulthood, how choices by her family hurt her and changed her, making her cry and making her try, and something making her put up a wall to protect herself. I wonder about abuse, and illegal actions of the religious, and whether the government has the right to interfere with a father and mother's actions, what a parent may do and what they refuse to do. I find myself thinking that NO parent has the right to force a child to endure pain and discomfort (no child, no wife), and thinking that pain and discomfort can make us stronger and so are actually to be embraced, and thinking that I do NOT want the government to be able to step in and deny any person their rights. Lucia has made me think about what I hold as important, what is right, and what is to be fought over. I cried, a lot of times, and had to put the book down as my face needed to be dried, my eyes cleared, but the sad things that Lucia tells us in her book didn't just make me pity her or like her or wish she had better parents. This book made me think about my own childhood, times when my parents did things to me (or didn't allow me to do certain things) because of their religious beliefs, beliefs that I do NOT hold as valid not that I am an adult (thank you college). Read this book, if you are strong, if you are curious, if you want to know something about Christian Science. And then do some research on when it developed, what the time was like when Mary Baker Eddy created and crafted her ideas into what is now a recognized religion, what skills and knowledge doctors had back then (or lacked), what medicinal practice was like at that time (if we can actually call it "medicine").
Read this book, if you want to change who you are and become someone and something else. It is worth the time and money you put into it.
First, I loved the book. It is well written and poignant. Ms. Greenhouse has a marvelous facility for capturing mood and circumstance with clarity, wit and heart. This book is definitely worth the read!
Second...don't assume that all Christian Scientists are like her parents. With all respect to the author, her parents appear to be immature, selfish and blind. Christian Science, when applied with a mature and practical approach, is beneficial to the world as well as individually. Sadly, Ms. Eddy's work has often been hijacked by conservative, shortsighted groups whose agendas are at odds with her teaching.
I don't speak or make apologies for the church. I don't attend the church and am not a member. I do, however, find much spiritual insight and satisfaction from Christian Science and recommend the teaching, if not the current practice.
It got worse when people died. As the author points out, death is swept under the rug. No one talks about the deceased person any more. It's almost as if they weren't ever alive. I rememeber another girl in Sunday School dying suddenly when she choked to death on her parents' living room floor. She had swollen tonsils and couldn't breath. Immediately after this happened, a practitioner from church called other local church members and told them not to visit the grief-stricken parents because it would give "too much reality" to the situation. I watched my mother and grandmother take off their coats and cancel their visit to the girl's family. Talk about cold and cruel. Can you imagine them sitting in their house all alone with not one of their church "friends" coming over to show their love?
Lucia also points out the hypocrisy of a practitioner wearing glasses and a healer not even being able to heal a kitten; these contradictions are all too common to ex-Christian Scientists. Reading this book validated a lot of my feelings as I grew up and made me realize at least one other person had struggled just like I had.
I've never understood how anyone can stand by and watch their loved one suffer when there is medical care available and after reading this book, I don't understand it any better. The father was so very rigid, as was the religion that he followed, that eventually he lost everyone in the family, in one way or another, that he cared about.
I feel bad for children being forced to follow these rules and was glad to see that the author and her siblings chose a different path in life.