Jennifer's Reviews > The Kingdom of Childhood

The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman
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Oct 17, 11

bookshelves: received-in-2011, arc, ebook, read-on-nook, received-for-review
Read in October, 2011

Originally reviewed on my blog:

It’s like a train wreck that you can’t tear your eyes away from. There were MANY, MANY moments throughout this book that I said to myself, “I cannot read one more word of this.” It sickened and disgusted me. It’s creepy, disturbing, chilling, and just downright gross. This book will make your skin crawl. I’m not sure how I feel about myself as a person considering I actually read the entire thing. With that said, I’ll get into the rest of the review. . .

Judy McFarland is a kindergarten teacher at the Waldorf School. I knew absolutely nothing about Waldorf Schools before reading this book, so I found this educational philosophy fascinating. According to the author, Waldorf is an anti-consumerist, whole family educational system. The Waldorf model encompasses the entire family unit and does not focus solely on the individual child. When a parent brings their child into Waldorf, the whole family becomes integrated into the system. Families rebuke traditional American culture to the benefit (or detriment?) of their children.

In her 40s, Judy is feeling abandoned by her husband, Russ. He is pursuing is Doctorate and has zero time for the marriage or their children. The author portrays Russ as an insensitive egomaniac, who also happens to have a drug problem. Her daughter, Maggie, is away at college, and rebelling against the Waldorf principles instilled in her since she was a child. Her son, Scott, is a senior in high school and is spending most of his time with his girlfriend, Tally. Desperate for affection and attention, Judy begins an illicit affair with Scott’s sixteen year old friend, Zach.

Yep, you read that right. Because that’s the most logical and reasonable course of action for a 40+ year old woman to take (note my sarcasm!).

Interspersed throughout the book are glimpses of Judy’s past as a ten year old child growing up in West Germany in 1965. These scenes were interesting for me as they made me feel sorry for Judy as the child. I didn’t want to feel sorry for Judy at all. But the things she went through as a child – what she witnessed, what she felt, and what she did – are heartbreaking. You feel for the child who lost her own innocence way too young. Does all of this contribute to her taking up with a 16 year old? I don’t know enough about the psychology of child molestation to know where it stems from and why people do it. I’m not sure if the author was trying to show us why Judy did what she did. I just had a really hard time with feeling sorry for her at all. To me, there’s no excuse at all for a 40 year old woman to have sex with a 16 year old boy. None at all. Nothing in my mind can justify it. Not a horrible childhood. Not a crumbling marriage. Not anything. And if the author was trying to justify it, then that just makes me sick.

Knowing that student-teacher relationships actually occur in real life actually made this book all the more horrifying to me. How innocence can be lost. How intelligent women can turn into child molesters. It makes me sick to my stomach. Having read the book, I still cannot wrap my head around Judy’s actions. Sure her husband is a jerk. I’m sure she’s not the only one who has had an idiot husband. But to turn to a 16 year old boy for affection? I can’t wrap my brain around that decision, even knowing Judy’s history.

Coleman is a masterful writer, that I can say without a doubt. The fact that this book has brought out such strong feelings in me is a testament to her ability to bring out such strong, defined, flawed characters. I can’t say I liked this book, just based on the subject matter, but it’s a book that will provoke strong reactions in you and make you think for days after.
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Reading Progress

10/15/2011 page 78
23.0% "I knew it had to start, but ewwwww........"
10/15/2011 page 106
31.0% "oh Judy...you are a hot mess, aren't you?"
10/15/2011 page 110
33.0% "geez zach...Wth?"
10/15/2011 page 139
41.0% "ewww, yuck..I don't know if I can read any more of this...it's beyond disturbing..."
10/15/2011 page 147
43.0% "Judy wonders (as a girl) "how it is that a soldier fights and a savior suffers, but a woman, in lying down, rules everything.""
10/15/2011 page 205
61.0% "wow she's freaking nutty. you are the adult - you just stop. just wow. crazy book."

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