Tuesday, September 20, 2011
It would be easy to describe The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman as a literary Mary Kay Letourneou story. But that doesn't quite describe it. The main characters are a middle-aged woman named Judy MacFarland and a 16 year old student, Zach Patterson. They are introduced when Zach's mother offers him as a volunteer to help get ready for Judy's school fundraiser. Their relationship starts off much like any teacher-student relationship but soon begins to cross a line. There is a conversation between Zach and Judy that happens near the beginning of their relationship about the song Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel. Zach believes (as many do) that the song is about a younger man being seduced by an older woman. Judy explains that she believes it to be about a woman stuck in suburbia going crazy. While I picked this title up expecting more of a doomed romance, I found myself feeling more like I was reading a psychological thriller. Their relationship is certainly doomed but will they both mentally unravel first? Zach is a hormonal teenager with no real concept of the emotions that come with physical relationships. Judy is suffering from a lack of any emotion besides resentment in her household. Together, the combine to make a Molotov cocktail of sexual intentions.
I found myself at the end of this novel feeling negatively about all the characters involved. I hated what they had done, how they had treated each other, how sloppily they had covered it up, and how self righteous they came across. But at the same time, I couldn't stop thinking about how this stupid fling had turned into such a deeply emotional car wreck. I couldn't stop thinking about how immature Zach was and how Judy lost any sense of reality. I wanted to understand them. I wanted to shake them. I wanted to warn them. Which I think really speaks for my feelings on The Kingdom of Childhood in the end. I have to admire a book that makes me really feel for the characters and question their decisions for a week after I've finished reading. Rebecca Coleman may not have written characters that I have affection towards, but she did a fantastic job of writing characters that kept me thinking. It will be published in paperback at the end of the month and I think it's the perfect fall read. I definitely recommend it. A good read to get your mind working while letting the rest of yourself get used to the chill of fall.