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God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  80 ratings  ·  20 reviews
From a former Christian Scientist, the first unvarnished account of one of America's most controversial and little-understood religious movements.

Millions of americans-from Lady Astor to Ginger Rogers to Watergate conspirator H. R. Haldeman-have been touched by the Church of Christ, Scientist. Founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, Christian Science was based on a belief that
Paperback, 592 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Picador (first published August 15th 1999)
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Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
[Apologies for the mile long review, it's a long and complex book and merits a lot of analysis/recap IMO]

Gripping but not sensational, serious but not soulless, and completely readable, this book flew by and I found myself itching to get back to it every time I had to put it down. In 500+ pages, in a nonfiction book about a small religion, I wasn’t bored for a second.

My interest in Christian Science (academic interest, not “I’m going to join” interest) stems from the fact that about a year ago,
Cdn Reader (Inactive)
This is a scathing, but scholarly "biography" of Christian Science. Detailed in the extreme, the book covers the religion's strange, histrionic, attention-seeking quack of a founder, Mary Baker Eddy, as well as the larger development of the movement. Author Caroline Fraser grew up in a mixed Christian Science home: her father was a member; her mother was not. In her late teens, with her rational faculties growing, Fraser left the church. Her break was more or less complete when a young boy, a me ...more
Judie Holliday
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is amazingly well researched and well written. Fraser isn't out to vilify a group of people or make fun of religion in general or this one in particular. She feels strongly that some Christian Scientists make bad decisions, but she isn't bitter, full of hate or out to get anyone. I wanted to understand the history and tenets of the Christian Science Church and I feel I do now. I wish I could read a similar book about Scientology or Jehovah's Witness.
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Highly researched and footnoted, this is not an emotional book but a journalistic explanation of the religion, the founder, the controversies, and fairly current activities.
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it

Eye opening for a former Christian Scientist.
Budd Dwyer
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The book that blew the roof off the Xtian Science Church.

Now we need one on Mormonism!
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Well, this is very chilling. Super informative, too. The history and blow-by-blow stuff is a little boring, but you know, it's a history of the Church, so...
Mar 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Having grown up as a Christian Scientist, but no longer practicing (just like the author), this book appealed to me.
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
Decided to re-read it this morning and forgot how incredibly pissed off it makes me at CS. Weeee.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it
The author provides lots of evidence regarding the mental instability of the founder of Christian Science, the many discrepancies in her own writings, and how strongly the Mother Church has quashed dissension and criticism over the years. The author's major flaw, though, is that she argues the inability of the church to "prove" its healing works, and of course virtually no religion is expected to prove its central tenets because they are based on faith. I think because Christian Science claims t ...more
My husband's mother, aunt and grandmother were Christian Scientists (all deceased). Two sisters died from incurable diseases (MS & Parkinson's). Their mother died in an auto accident. An uncle died from a ruptured appendix at age 14. Grandfather died from a heart attack at 55. This book explains their beliefs and includes an an interesting biography of it's founder, Mary Baker Eddy. Strange people and strange beliefs. ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
The last chapter of this book is one of the best analyses about American religion I have ever encountered. It should be read (even if only as a standalone essay) by anyone interested in the influence individualism has had on the evolution of religious thought in the US.

4/5 for the book as a whole
5/5 for the last 30 pages
Aug 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Whew, this is a large book filled with lots of information...too much for me....
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it
fascinating book if you ever want to learn about the history of Christian Scientists
Sheri faulk
Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wow! This book helped me to understand Christian Science Beliefs. It's just hard for me to understand how you can go on the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy. Why follow someone with such bad character?
Chris Huff
Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I grew up frequently attending a Christian Science church. My grandparents were CS, and they took me to church with them for awhile. It wasn't until years later that I found out how much error the church taught.

This quote from the book basically sums up the contradiction of CS:

"practitioners-who cannot diagnose disease or illness-are allowed to sign certificates for sick leave and disability, although the Church has never explained how practitioners can verify conditions they don't believe in."
Clownface3 Kinder
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not the personal memoir I was expecting, but rather an instructive, albeit biased history of the Christian Science Church, religious pluralism, and alternative healing in the U.S.

Mostly captivating, occasionally a little long, definitely thought-provoking. The last chapter, especially vis-a-vis the culture wars in the U.S., will stay with me a long time.
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shocking. Brought up in the CS church my brother and I saw much hypocracy. Had no idea how bad it was even tho we both left as teenagers.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Caroline Fraser spares no detail in her research and writing, which makes for informative, if not always enjoyable, reading. It was a slog getting through some parts of this exhaustive (and at times exhausting) work, but I'm glad I did. Lots of insight into how mass movements take hold, and brave work on Fraser's part, delving into a subject so close to home and about such a famously litigous bunch as Christian Scientists.
Ruth Lounsbury
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Caroline Fraser was born in Seattle and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in English and American literature. Formerly on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, she is the author of two nonfiction books, God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church and Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution, both published by Henry Holt's Metropolitan Books.


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