Friday, October 14, 2011

"The Kingdom of Childhood" by Rebecca Coleman

Judy McFarland has reached a weird place in her life.  She is still the pillar of the Waldorf School community where she has taught kindergarten for many years.  Her children are growing more independent - her daughter is already in college, her son a High School senior - and her husband has become more distant and angry since beginning his doctoral dissertation a couple years ago.  Judy is also mourning the loss of her oldest, closest, and possibly only true friend.  In a word - she is lonely.

Zach Patterson is sixteen years old and just moved to the area from New Hampshire.  He is a thoughtful, sensitive boy, eager to make friends in his new school but also deeply troubled by the infidelity of one of his parents.  He would really like to find someone to talk to about all of this, especially since this is really the first time he doesn't feel able to talk to his parents.

Zach and Judy start spending time together on school projects and simple flirtations end up going way too far.  A sexual affair brings quick thrills, brief comfort and inevitable devastation.  Judy's career, marriage and life are at risk... not to mention the remaining years of Zach's childhood.

This debut novel is jaw dropping and explosive.  Set against the backdrop of President Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings, Coleman weaves a tale that confronts and explores a taboo sexual relationship between an adult - a teacher no less - and a young teen.  The character arcs in this book are amazing.  The characters of Judy and Zach completely transform even within the context of their relationship.  Judy seems so normal on the surface, but by revisiting the few loving, intimate relationships she has had in her life reveal more than unrequited crushes or bad breakups.  She is very familiar with keeping secrets and you can see how this helps create the initial bond with Zach.

I was at times sympathetic with the characters and then completely disgusted.  It got to the point that I had no idea how I wanted their story to end.  This is a perfect book for (adult) book clubs given the controversial subject, and the underlying themes.  This is a powerful debut - one that is sure to get people talking and thinking.  I know that this will stay with me for a long time to come.

The Kingdom of Childhood                                              Also Available at The Book Depository
by Rebecca Coleman
Mira, 2011
338 pages
Source:  Publicist for blog tour

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