by Lucia Greenhouse
Crown Publishing Group Hardcover
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Available for purchase
Why did you choose this book? The title caught my attention. I knew a couple of famiies that were Christian Scientists and wanted to know more about the thinking behind Christian Science
When did you read this book? October 2011
Who should read this book? readers who are interested a better understanding of Christian Science; readers who enjoy memoirs
Here is a synopsis of ‘fathermothergod' from Goodreads, where it rates 3.81 stars.
Lucia Ewing had what looked like an all-American childhood. She lived with her mother, father, sister, and brother in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where they enjoyed private schools, sleep-away camps, a country club membership, and skiing vacations. Surrounded by a tight-knit extended family, and doted upon by her parents, Lucia had no doubt she was loved and cared for. But when it came to accidents and illnesses, Lucia’s parents didn't take their kids to the doctor's office--they prayed, and called a Christian Science practitioner.
fathermothergod is Lucia Greenhouse's story about growing up in Christian Science, in a house where you could not be sick, because you were perfect; where no medicine, even aspirin, was allowed. As a teenager, her visit to an ophthalmologist created a family crisis. She was a sophomore in college before she had her first annual physical. And in December 1985, when Lucia and her siblings, by then young adults, discovered that their mother was sick, they came face-to-face with the reality that they had few--if any--options to save her. Powerless as they watched their mother’s agonizing suffering, Lucia and her siblings struggled with their own grief, anger, and confusion, facing scrutiny from the doctors to whom their parents finally allowed them to turn, and stinging rebuke from relatives who didn’t share their parents’ religious values.
In this haunting, beautifully written book, Lucia pulls back the curtain on the Christian Science faith and chronicles its complicated legacy for her family. At once an essentially American coming-of-age story and a glimpse into the practices of a religion few really understand, fathermothergod is an unflinching exploration of personal loss and the boundaries of family and faith.
As most readers of my reviews know, I usually avoid any sort of memoir. However, this one attracted my attention, as I’d know a couple of Christian Science families growing up and wanted to learn why they avoided simple cures that medical science provides, and instead let their loved ones suffer irreversible consequences.
This book didn’t really give me a full understanding of that; there are probably as many answers to that question as their are families practicing Christian Science. However, one thing I did come to understand is how belief in Christian Science could have arisen when it did. For those who haven’t read the book, basically Christian Scientists reject the belief that illness exists. Illness would be an imperfection and since God creates perfect people, we can’t have reall illness. Illness only exists in our minds and we can strengthen our minds and failth through prayer. Christian Science Practioners are kind of a Christian Science version of doctors, only instead of dispensing medicines, they dispense prayer. Though to most of us today, that probably seems like a silly idea, back when Christian Science was started in the post-Civil War era, modern medicine did not exist. There were no antibiotics. The cure rate of prayer was about equal to the cure rate of doctors of that time. So it was easy for Christian Science to gain a following. But this is 150 years later, and some people still believe. This book outlines the beliefs of one set of parents, and how far they were willing to follow that belief.
In this case, the family did not start out to be followers of Christian Science. Both parents came from families that followed more ‘mainstream’ religions. There were even medical doctors in the family. That is probably why Lucia’s parents worked so hard to cover up her mother’s ‘non-illness’. They knew the family would urge her to seek help from medical professionals. And with Lucia’s father being a Christian Science practitioner, a professional whose livelihood depended on clients believing he could help with their healing, it did not really sit well to let everyone know his wife was not recovering quickly. This secrecy created a lot of anger and resentment when Lucia was asked to keep the secret, and hostility from other family members when they found out. I’m not sure the author has come to terms with her resentment towards her father even at the end of the story. However, her journey is fascinating and I’m glad I read it. I finished this one in 2 days and it is a memoir!
My Rating: ★★★★+ 4-1/2 Stars