Synopses & Reviews
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.
"One afternoon just before she turns eight, Greenhouse returns home from school to find her older sister, Olivia, curled up asleep on the couch, covered with little red spots. Lucia anxiously asks her mother if Olivia has the chicken pox. Her mother stiffly replies that Olivia is not sick, because Olivia is God's perfect child. In this one moment, her family's deeply seated beliefs in Christian Science become crystal clear to little Lucia, and she wrestles mightily with these teachings in the pages of this often gripping, sometimes melodramatic memoir. Greenhouse's struggles come to a head when her mother falls gravely ill with cancer; in the early stages of her illness, Greenhouse's parents seek the aid of Christian Science healers. As her mother's health deteriorates rapidly, she is moved to a hospital for treatment, but this move is too little, too late. Greenhouse very weakly tries to resolve the tension between her own beliefs and the Christian Science teachings that she never embraced, and she never works out the anger and resentment she has toward her father for what she believes are his misguided and unloving actions toward her mother. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
LUCIA GREENHOUSE, a graduate of the Emma Willard School and Brown University, lives with her husband and four children in Westchester County, New York. This is her first book.
Reading Group Guide
Please consider the below discussion questions to enhance your reading of fathermothergod by Lucia Greenhouse.
Readers' Guide for fathermothergod
1. How successful would you say the author was in conveying the doctrine of the Christian Science Church, (starting from the point of view of a child)?
2. As a young girl Lucia thinks about the dichotomy between Christian Science and the real world as being like the Venn diagrams in math class, wondering if the two circles overlap at all. Does this metaphor apply to your own religion or that of others?,Does it apply to other conflicting aspects of a child’s life?
3. What were Lucia’s parents’ motivations in embracing Christian Science? Lucia’s grandfather and uncle were prominent physicians. What are possible explainations for her mother’s rejection of medicine?
4. Is there a time in your own life when you’ve had to make an extremely difficult choice between adhering to your own beliefs and respecting those of close friends or family members? How have you dealt with that conflict?
5. The Christian Science church has often been viewedas a more or less mainstream--if small-- Protestant religion. What was your understanding of the church, and how has that understanding changed?
6. Freedom of religion is a fundamental principal of American democracy. Are there limits to the free exercise of religion? Should there be?
7. Lucia and her siblings had been raised in the Church, and indoctrinated from a young age. Even though they never fully embraced Christian Science, its grip on them remained tight, even paralyzing. But the same cannot be said about some of Lucia’s other family members who remained silent after they learned about Joanne’s illness. What kept them from acting? Filial loyalty? Religious tolerance? Fear?
8. What would you have done, had you been in Lucia’s shoes?
9. Where should the line between personal choice and legal interest be drawn (like assisted suicide) ?
10.At one point Lucia says that her grandmother may be the only person capable of forgiving her father, and only because her own faith dictates it. What role has forgiveness played in Lucia’s life and that of her family since the events of 1986?
11. Do you think Lucia loves her parents?
12.What is the lowest point in the story?
13. Regardless of one’s feelings about Mary Baker Eddy’s theology, she was an early feminist, who founded a religion and started The Christian Science Monitor.. What will her legacy be?
14. What do you think attracts people to Christian Science?
15. What is the difference between a religion and a cult?
16. Lucia’s sister, Olivia, said to Lucia near the end of the book, “I just want you to know, you, Sherman and I: we had three very different sets of parents. Your story is not mine.” Is Olivia’s comment a universal truth?
17. Sibling dynamics around family secrets are always complicated. How is what happened in fathermothergod similar or dissimilar to the way families handle other secrets, such as alcoholism and other addictions?
18. Which character in fathermothergod do you most identify with and why?
For more information visit, LuciaGreenhouse.com, facebook.com/LuciaGreenhouse and twitter.com/LuciaGreenhouse.