Review: The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman

September 26, 2011 Mira Books, Review 14

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.

14 Responses to “Review: The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman”

  1. Becky at "One Literature Nut"

    This subject matter makes me shudder! As a high school teacher, and single to boot, people often “joke” around about this topic. It honestly makes me nauseous to even consider. I’m not even sure what even drives someone into a relationship with a student, and it boggles my mind. I can’t say I necessarily want to read this, because of my own work situation, but I am kind of surprised that more authors haven’t tackled this subject before now. *shudders* Thanks for the review and for your honesty!

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      Agreed, this is quite the touchy subject. I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to read this book, but the authors writing drew me in. I’m glad I read it, despite the subject matter.

  2. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    That does sound like a very upsetting book, but it also sounds like it could be plucked from the headlines. Your review has piqued my interest.

  3. Anita

    This will make me sound way too weird, but I’m drawn to books with taboo subjects…see weird..LOL.
    This sounds very well written, and I’ll be putting it on my ever growing TBR list.
    Thanks Jenn for such a wonderful review.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      Not weird at all; I, too, am drawn to authors to take risks with their books, with the topics/themes discussed.

  4. Meg
    Twitter: writemeg

    This was a book that almost kept me up at night — definitely intense and disturbing! I thought it was fascinating how I had all this sympathy for Judy in the beginning, but her character really became so insane that I couldn’t possibly justify anything she was doing. It made sense in context, I guess, but wow — craziness!

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      I know; it was interesting to see her character devolve into an emotional mess! I commend the author for having the courage to write about such a taboo subject.

  5. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads

    Between your review and the conversation in the comments, I think I’d better add this to my wish list. I was going to pass it by — not because of the subject matter per se but because I thought it’d just be about the sex or sensationalism. This sounds deeper and more disturbing.

  6. Anbolyn
    Twitter: anbolynp

    Definitely a disturbing issue, but one that needs exploring, I believe. We hear so many stories about these types of relationships that we should try to understand why they happen instead of turning away. This sounds like a novel that sounds like it does just that and I will be on the lookout for it!

  7. Sarah Ann
    Twitter: dreamworldbooks

    I just stumbled on this review by chance after searching for Rebecca Coleman on Twitter, and I agree with your comments regarding Coleman’s honest and chilling style. I am about 1/4 of the way through her upcoming October release, Heaven Should Fall, and I’m finding it captivating so far! If I still feel this way upon finishing the book, I’ll definitely be adding The Kingdom of Childhood to my wish list!

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