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The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman
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's review
Oct 10, 2011

really liked it

This turned out to be a much different book than I had anticipated. I had heard it was bout a teacher who worked at the Waldorf School who was having a romantic affair. Since my grand daughter went to a Waldorf school and I was familiar with its methods and New Age philosophy, I thought it would be interesting.
The book did have lots of detail related to the school that I had seen fisthand, like the spiral light ceremony and candle lighting. But I wasn't expecting the torrid, erotic affair between a 40 something kindergarten teacher and a sixteen year old student that is the center of the story. Actually, though the subject matter is not something that would normally be appealing I found it very well done and convincing.
The teacher, Judy McFarland grew up in Germany in the '60s where her father worked for the U.S government in a small town. Her mother became mentally ill promting her father to begin an affair with their housekeeper that has a lasting affect on her. She now is married some 30 years later and deeply unsatisfied with the state of her marriage to an indifferent husband.
Zach Patterson, the student has recently moved to Maryland from New Hampshire where he had suspected his mother was having an affair with one of the men in her yoga class. He has also recently become friends with Judy's older son. Zach too was deeply affected by his mother's apparent betrayal. Amidst all of this it is 1998 and the Impeachment proceedings against President Clinton are going on which provides a backdrop to the perception of illicit sexual affairs. When Zach and Judy are asked to work together on a school bazaar project, they come together as two lonely souls for which the spark of sexual excitement is lit and consumes them into a web of lies and deceit. Zach realizes he is in over his head and his mind wants out but he is powerless to free himself from the sexula pull of Judy. For Judy, the relationship has become her drug of escape and is ever more needy and drawn into manipulating Zach to keep it going. All of this eventually spirals out of control as the betrayals they both saw in their youth come around on them.
In the hands of a lesser writer, this could have become a cheap trashy novel but Rebecca Coleman powerfully conveys the sense of helplessness that Judy and Zach have. It is a beautifully written and thoroughly convincing story of a psychologically damaged illicit affair.
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