The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman
I received an ARC for The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman, and though I agreed to read and review, I was a little worried about what my reaction would be. I do like to explore beyond the chick lit genre, and this one is definitely way out that realm. The main character is Judy McFarland, a typical suburban mom whose profession is a kindergarten teacher. She has one son, a senior named Scott, and a husband that is manic over his doctoral dissertation. Judy’s marriage has already begun to disintegrate, but she takes things to a new level when she begins an affair- with a sixteen year old student. Judy starts to mentor Zach Patterson, a high school student and friend of Scott’s, and they soon enter into a torrid affair. The time jumps around from when Judy is a young girl and key times in her childhood, to her adult life and the decisions she is making. The point of view also switches from Judy to Zach at times, which gives readers a nice insight on his thoughts and feelings on the relationship.
The beginning did start off a bit slow for me but about halfway through the novel, I was unable to put it down. You watch as Judy turns from a typical teacher, to a misguided lover, to an insane predator with just a few flips of the pages. I have seen the words “psychological thriller” being used to describe this book, and I would agree. My emotions were played with, I kept shouting out passages to my boyfriend, and I was engrossed until the end. The writing was masterful, and I thought the sub-plot of Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky was a great addition to the main story. I will say that when I was struggling through the beginning, I couldn’t tell what Coleman’s intentions were. Was she trying to say that teacher-student affairs are okay, that Judy was simply a lost woman looking for love? Was she trying to show why these affairs are common, how people can get away with it, and what happens after the relationship is discovered? I almost felt for awhile that is was the first, that readers were supposed to feel sympathetic with Judy. Her best friend has recently died of cancer, her husband was an absent a-hole and her life seemed to be coming apart at the seams. It wasn’t until the end, where the dots seemed to be connected (at least for me) that showed the disease she was suffering from. The last few chapters gave me goosebumps, but the very last section was a little confusing for me. Overall, a solid story that will make you keep thinking about the characters after you finish the book.