Judy McFarland, a kindergarten teacher, and Zach Patterson, a sixteen-year-old high school student, are thrown together to work on a fund-raising project together. Both are extremely lonely: Judy’s family is falling apart, Zach is forced to bear the brunt of his mother’s infidelity by moving to a new school and making new friends.
The affair between Judy & Zach at first seems exciting and thrilling, but ultimately it begins to eat away at each of them. Judy’s common sense is blurred and she puts her entire life on the line for their “relationship.” Zach turns into a shell of the young man he used to be. Zach sees how their affair is corrupting both of them and attempts to put an end to it. For Judy, Zach reminds her of a young man she loved as a youth, of a lifetime of buried secrets.
The Kingdom of Childhood is a chilling and yet also enthralling read. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for the characters involved, at least at first. Judy’s husband barely pays attention to her, instead working on his doctoral dissertation. Her children are growing up, more independent, not needing her like they did when they were younger. She’s alone, the life she’d known for decades slipping between her fingers. For Zach, his mother’s affair with her yoga instructor, an affair he wasn’t supposed to know about, that forces him to pull away and isolate himself. Now they’ve moved to a new home, a new school, a new baby on the way. He doesn’t feel a part of the new life his parents have begun to create.
At each step of the affair, Judy and Zach know what they are doing is wrong. But they are each so desperate for love, for attention, they continue on with this destructive relationship.
Coleman holds nothing back in this vivid portrayal of a teacher/student affair. All the emotions of the characters in the relationship are made available to the reader, making it impossible to feel the pain they are each experiencing.
I discovered this book at BEA (Book Expo America) this past May. When I learned the author was local to me, I had to learn more about it.
Obviously, as a parent, the subject matter of this book was a bit upsetting. However, Coleman portrays it in a way that is both honest yet also disturbingly chilling. This book is guaranteed to generate a great deal of discussion.
Due to the subject matter, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to everyone. That said, a reader looking to discover a debut author, filled to the brim with new talent, shouldn’t stray away from this book. Coleman has made a mark with The Kingdom of Childhood, a mark that won’t soon fade. Highly recommended.