Title: The Kingdom of Childhood
Author: Rebecca Coleman
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5
Judy McFarland is a kindergarten teacher whose life is less than perfect. Her teenage son has checked out of the family, ready for college, while her relationship with her husband has become completely toxic. Alone, without anyone to rely on, Judy connects with a high school student, Zach, a friend of her son’s, who is working with Judy on a fundraiser for their school. But when their relationship turns into something more than friendship, things become very complicated for both of them.
The Kingdom of Childhood is a difficult book to review. It is a brave, daring book, tackling a subject that most of us would rather not think about. But because of that difficult subject, it makes it a hard book to read. While this would make an incredible book club pick, it’s not the most enjoyable novel to sit down with. I’ll admit that I considered putting it down multiple times, but in the end, I chose to stick with it, and I’m glad I did.
Judy is an incredibly complicated and disturbed woman. At the beginning, she seems perfectly normal. In fact, I felt bad for her; her husband seemed very difficult and completely uninterested in her, and it’s clear that their marriage was over. I wanted to reach through the pages and shake some sense into Judy once things with Zach started heading in a romantic direction, but I still really felt for her. But all of a sudden, about halfway through the novel, Judy transforms from a sympathetic, misguided character to a manipulative, scheming woman who is clearly taking advantage of this poor teenage boy. It’s a believable transformation, don’t get me wrong, but it’s difficult to watch. Readers will question how they ever tried to sympathize with this horrible woman.
Part of the reason Judy’s psychotic break is believable in The Kingdom of Childhood is due to Coleman’s ingenious use of flashbacks to illustrate Judy’s true character. The novel jumps in time from the present day to Judy’s childhood in Germany and her friendship with a boy named Rudi. This relationship and the way it ended has important repercussions for Judy’s mental and emotional health in the present day.
In The Kingdom of Childhood, Rebecca Coleman successfully paints a disturbing picture of a women’s descent into complete self-destruction. Judy gives up on everything in her life one by one in her singular quest for Zach’s time and attention, and it’s almost frightening the way this seemingly normal woman breaks down. While the subject matter is difficult and it’s not necessarily an enjoyable book to read, it’s definitely a book worth reading if you can handle what it’s about.