The Kingdom Of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman is one of those books with a subject that makes your skin crawl, but is a train wrecking told so spellbindingly that it’s impossible to set down.
Judy McFarland is a kindergarten teacher at Waldorf, a Steiner-philosophy based school, which centers on protecting innocence, no sharp corners, no consumerism, and no delicious food, instead they eat organic crap. Anyways Judy is having a midlife crisis. Her husband won’t sex her. She’s feeling old and ugly. Then a teenager, Zach Patterson, who is dealing with his own family problems, pays Judy a bit of attention, setting off a Mary Kay LeTourneau type relationship.
Guys, I was so disgusted but could not look away. Obviously, I talk to some of you about the generals of what I do. But it sickens me that anyone, even a fictional character, could find a teenager under the age of consent sexually attractive. And okay, obviously it’s different when you are a teenager and you find other teenagers attractive. But okay, as an adult I realize there is a huge fucking divide between me and a teenager. I also realize that I know a lot more about the way of the world than someone whose parents still pay their bills.
I found it so odd that Judy teaches at Waldorf, this school that specializes in protecting innocence, but has zero qualms about doing a teenage boy. I felt horrible for Zach is definitely not emotionally a man or even remotely ready for a sexual relationship with his teacher. And yet, he’s basically coereced into it, and Judy is such a manipulative witch. Oh man. I could type on and on about her. However, I just want to put it out there that statistically men are more frequently the perpetrator, women can be perpetrators too. I thought it was an interesting dynamic for Coleman to write about. I felt she was realistic and didn’t try to romanticize the relationship between teacher and student.
The Kingdom Of Childhood is layered and comprised of metaphors, deeper meaning, and symbolism wrapped up in an entertaining package. Coleman’s book definitely made me think deeper and on the setting context of the novel (during the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the Clinton Era). I think The Kingdom of Childhood is a very interesting read, if not for the icky relationship.
Disclosure: Received for review at BEA
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