Sunday, November 27, 2011

fathermothergod My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse

Lucia and her siblings had what appeared at first glance to be a privileged childhood, they lived in nice houses, went to private schools, summer camps, country clubs, skiing trips, and accompanied their loving parents on foreign vacations, and even spent some time living aboard in England. But everything is not always what it seems. When it came to illnesses and accidents a darker truth was revealed—Lucia’s family were Christian Sciences, followers of the religion founded by Mary Baker Eddy, which denied the existence of all disease and sickness. When someone got sick, they were described as “working through a problem” and instead of taking aspirin or any other medication or calling the doctor they called their Christian Science practitioner and resorted to prayer instead.

Lucia realized early that she had no faith in her parents religion. When she began to have trouble seeing the blackboard in school and suffering headaches and realized she needed glasses it was seen as a rebellion, a betrayal of their faith, when she went to an ophthalmologist. “You’re just giving in to prevailing erroneous thought,” her father told her. Lucia wisely did not listen and got her glasses.

Most of this memoir deals with what happened when Lucia’s mother became ill with cancer and the siblings long battle to get their mother proper medical care. Dealing with their father’s stubborn insistence that she was getting better and “making good progress” was like slamming up against a brick wall and they also had to cope with the justifiable anger, albeit sometimes misplaced, of their non-Christian Science relatives, especially their doctor uncle and their nurse grandmother, when they became aware of her condition. And you can really feel their frustration, it seeps out of every page. A tumor that began in her rectum gradually eroded the wall between her bowel and vagina leaving her in agonizing pain, suffering from infection and malnutrition, and by the time she taken to a hospital it was too late to save her. She was only fifty years old.

For those who enjoy memoirs about non-celebrities in extraordinary situations or explorations of different religions this is a very interesting and heart-breaking and highly readable book it kept me up until 6:00 a.m. and within minutes of waking up I was reaching for it again.

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