fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science

fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science

by Lucia Greenhouse


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fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse

Lucia Ewing had what looked like an all-American childhood. She lived with her mother, father, sister, and brother in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where they enjoyed private schools, sleep-away camps, a country club membership, and skiing vacations. Surrounded by a tight-knit extended family, and doted upon by her parents, Lucia had no doubt she was loved and cared for. But when it came to accidents and illnesses, Lucia’s parents didn't take their kids to the doctor's office—they prayed, and called a Christian Science practitioner. 
fathermothergod is Lucia Greenhouse's story about growing up in Christian Science, in a house where you could not be sick, because you were perfect; where no medicine, even aspirin, was allowed. As a teenager, her visit to an ophthalmologist created a family crisis. She was a sophomore in college before she had her first annual physical. And in December 1985, when Lucia and her siblings, by then young adults, discovered that their mother was sick, they came face-to-face with the reality that they had few—if any—options to save her. Powerless as they watched their mother’s agonizing suffering, Lucia and her siblings struggled with their own grief, anger, and confusion, facing scrutiny from the doctors to whom their parents finally allowed them to turn, and stinging rebuke from relatives who didn’t share their parents’ religious values. 
In this haunting, beautifully written book, Lucia pulls back the curtain on the Christian Science faith and chronicles its complicated legacy for her family.  At once an essentially American coming-of-age story and a glimpse into the practices of a religion few really understand, fathermothergod is an unflinching exploration of personal loss and the boundaries of family and faith.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307720931
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 08/28/2012
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.34(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.73(d)

About the Author

LUCIA GREENHOUSE, a graduate of the Emma Willard School and Brown University, lives with her husband and four children in Westchester County, New York. This is her first book.

Reading Group Guide

Please consider the below discussion questions to enhance your reading of fathermothergod by Lucia Greenhouse.

Readers' Guide for fathermothergod

1. How successful would you say the author was in conveying the doctrine of the Christian Science Church, (starting from the point of view of a child)?
2. As a young girl Lucia thinks about the dichotomy between Christian Science and the real world as being like the Venn diagrams in math class, wondering if the two circles overlap at all.  Does this metaphor apply to your own religion or that of others?,Does it apply to other conflicting aspects of a child’s life?
3. What were Lucia’s parents’ motivations in embracing Christian Science? Lucia’s grandfather and uncle were prominent physicians.  What are possible explainations for her mother’s rejection of medicine?
4. Is there a time in your own life when you’ve had to make an extremely difficult choice between adhering to your own beliefs and respecting those of close friends or family members? How have you dealt with that conflict?
5. The Christian Science church has often been viewedas a more or less mainstream--if small-- Protestant religion. What was your understanding of the church, and how has that understanding changed?
6. Freedom of religion is a fundamental principal of American democracy.  Are there limits to the free exercise of religion? Should there be?
7. Lucia and her siblings had been raised in the Church, and indoctrinated from a young age.  Even though they never fully embraced Christian Science, its grip on them remained tight, even paralyzing. But the same cannot be said about some  of Lucia’s other family members who remained silent after they learned about Joanne’s illness.  What kept them from acting?  Filial loyalty?  Religious tolerance? Fear?
8. What would you have done, had you been in Lucia’s shoes? 
9. Where should the line between personal choice and legal interest be drawn  (like assisted suicide) ?
10.At one point Lucia says that her grandmother may be the only person capable of forgiving her father, and only because her own faith dictates it.  What role has forgiveness played in Lucia’s life and that of her family since the events of 1986?
11. Do you think Lucia loves her parents?
12.What is the lowest point in the story?           
13. Regardless of one’s feelings about Mary Baker Eddy’s theology, she was an early feminist, who founded a religion and started The Christian Science Monitor..  What will her legacy be? 
14. What do you think attracts people to Christian Science?
15. What is the difference between a religion and a cult?
16. Lucia’s sister, Olivia, said to Lucia near the end of the book, “I just want you to know, you, Sherman and I: we had three very different sets of parents.  Your story is not mine.”  Is Olivia’s comment a universal truth?
17. Sibling dynamics around family secrets are always complicated.  How is what happened in fathermothergod similar or dissimilar to the way families handle other secrets, such as alcoholism and other addictions? 
18. Which character in fathermothergod do you most identify with and why?
For more information visit, LuciaGreenhouse.com, facebook.com/LuciaGreenhouse and twitter.com/LuciaGreenhouse.

Customer Reviews

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Fathermothergod 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
mkaystapleton More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. Not only does it have beautiful written memories but also heart wrenching detail of a family in turmoil. This is a story of heartache and triumph as the author comes out at the other end stronger!
CuriousPU More than 1 year ago
May seem like an alarming Headline, but I honestly called in sick one day to stay home and finish this book! First, i knew NOTHING about Christian Scientists, and was stunned that they had such rigid beliefs...Second, I was moved by the struggle the writer suffered in terms of reconciling her family's beliefs and health issues without being able to turn to anyone outside her family. Finally, i was touched by the honesty of her voice. Ms Greenhouse readily admits this is her story, and that her siblings and others have different perspectives of the same events. But it was clear that it was a story that she had to tell for herself, her family, and wanted to share it with as wide an audience as possible. I for one, will never forget the story! It is not an easy one. I do not recommend this for a beach vacation, but it was moving and educational and well written. Thanks!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book. I couldn't put it down, which wasn't too difficult logistically because it's a page-turner and Lucia Greenhouse's prose is so easy to read. I thought she broke down the sections perfectly. In Part One, each story from her childhood was a further progression in the way she thought about and questioned Christian Science. Part Two was where I really couldn't put it down. There it's the questioning of Father-knows-best that got to me, as I think one's disillusionment with the wisdom of parents is one of the hardest parts of growing up. That the stakes were so high, because Lucia didn't agree with her father's, and her mother's, choice to refrain from modern medicine when her mother was so ill, makes this disillusionment all the more powerful. And Part Three, her epilogue, brought the reader out of the thriller-like Part Two into a thoughtful reflection that also ties up loose ends. While reading as fast as I could so that I could find out what happened next, I had to pause and marvel at the events as they unfolded, and I wondered time and again what I would have done had I been in Lucia's position. There are so many other elements to unpack and discuss and think about, and I think it would be perfect for a Book Club or a religion & philosophy class.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Similar to hundreds of others, I read fathermothergod in one sitting. I was planning on reading just the first chapter on a red eye from California, but decided I COULD NOT put it down. Greenhouse's storytelling techniques truly brought the reader into the story. Where other reviews claim the beginning of the novel to be just a bit slow, I found it to be a perfect introduction, allowing the reader to draw personal ties with Greenhouse. The pace picked up as her struggle ensued, and was eventually a suspenseful novel, creating a knot in my stomach at the turn of each page. Her ability to show the horrors of Christian Science, without making it look like a cult proves she was born a writer. 5 Stars..A MUST READ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was riveted to this book! The internal turmoil that this family had to endure during such a trying time for any family was heart wrenching. Through Greenhouse's writing, one really gets a sense of the family dynamics and emotional struggles that transpired for her. Although her situation is unique to her, her descriptions allow her reader to relate to her inner turmoil. I thought the book was well written and heartfelt A page turner and a great choice for book clubs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book. It is extremely well written. It is filled with great descriptions of the people around and how difficult it was to to watch the consequences of her parents' beliefs. It is very clear how much she loved her mother, her family and her extended family.
librarysusie More than 1 year ago
I didn't know much about Christian Science when I started this book except for the fact that they don't believe in going to doctors that the Lord will heal them however, I did not realize it is the symptoms of an illness or sickness itself that they don't believe in. I also don't understand when they say things like have you tried science when referring to Lucia who wants to get her eyes checked, isn't medicine science? So, I do not understand the name Christian Science when they don't use Science like going to the doctor. This book was a rare and fascinating look into a religion that I had little previous knowledge of and Lucia's narrative on her family and upbringing alternately makes your heartbreak, makes you angry and makes you shake your head in disbelief that anyone could believe some of the things after going through what they went through in the latter part of the book. I felt so bad for Lucia and her siblings but also even through it all, her parents. What was amazing is how her parent's belief in this religion impacted the extended family too and how her parents virtually cut themselves off from any non-believer so no one could see what was really happening. Also Lucia confused feelings of wanting to get help for her mother and wanting to protect her parents must have been so hard I don't know how she stayed sane through it all. This was a great read and was very hard to put down, if you like memoirs about different religions or dysfunctional families I highly recommend this book it is a fascinating read. 4 Stars Full Disclosure: I received this book from netgalley
KathleenT More than 1 year ago
This story is so well written and drew me into the heart of the author's family right from the beginning. I truly could not put it down and read it in a day. To the author - thank you for sharing your life with all of us and for enlightening us in the deeply personal struggles within a Christian Scientist family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mesmerizing This magnificent memoir conveys the shattering conflict felt by the author and her sibling(s) as they struggled to come to grips with the beliefs with which they were raised and the world they grew to experience for themselves. Though this experience of developing personal beliefs that differ from those of our parents is not unique, the stakes for that difference are rarely so high. Christian Science is not a cult; it is a religion practiced by some in surprisingly visible (leadership) roles in our society - yet it is devoid of nuance, tolerance or uncertainty for that which we cannot concretely know. It's narrow-ness is alarming and even frightening. I am grateful to Lucia Greenhouse for sharing her profoundly painful story with intimacy, immediacy and intelligence, and for shedding light on this unforgiving religion that quietly thrives in our midst.
catwak More than 1 year ago
Anthony Lewis has described the First Amendment as "freedom for the thought that we hate." In the U.S., freedom of religion has been vigilantly defended, as well it should be. Many of the disturbing incidents in this book could be equally attributed to causes or behavior unrelated to religious belief. For me the horror of this story lies in the denial of choice in matters of personal faith. Despite Ms. Greenhouse's professed skepticism toward Christian Science (even as a child), she was so clearly abused that even today she fears that her book may result in physical retribution upon those she loves. When this tyranny of belief is imposed on children, particularly in situations where the consequences may mean death, it's extremely difficult to honor the "free exercise" of religion by doing nothing. Still, I had a hard time deciding how much of the abuse was directly attributable to religious belief and how much was just that of a very disturbed man exercising control over his wife and children.
TeechTX More than 1 year ago
I found this book absolutely riveting and, like many others, I could not put it down until I finished it. I cannot improve on the August 10th review by "Anonymous," with which I completely agree. I taught medical ethics for decades, and I wish this memoir had been available for my students to explore the application of moral principles to real life. In a graceful narrative, Greenhouse lays bare her painful struggle with her parents' unyielding embrace of the methods of Christian Science in spite of their children's and siblings' growing confusion, doubt, and anger about decisions they will not even discuss with them. I was left to ponder whether the cold, even cruel rigidity displayed by Greenhouse's Practitioner father was owing to Christian Science itself or to his increasingly domineering personality. I suspect it was in fact an unhealthy symbiosis between the two. Observing the conflicts that arose within this family because of their unwillingness to talk about illness and death made me realize all the more how important it is for families to talk about these very things.
EmilyKellogg More than 1 year ago
When I began this book, I knew nothing about Christian Scientists. As the story went on, I became more and more appalled with the outcome and couldn't believe that anyone had to suffer through it. However terrible the story, it is told with exceptional grace. The author uses an unflinching narration to show us exactly what she was thinking, but at the same time does not ask for pity. She wants everyone to see what she went through and how she changed because of it. It is a wonderful novel, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Raised by devout Christian Scientists, Ms. Greenhouse shares a compelling, revealing and deeply personal account of her struggle to reconcile personal tragedy and religious doctrine. Through her experiences as a child and later, as an adult, she raises timeless issues concerning belief, religion, loyalty, family and love. I was completely engrossed and moved by her honest story.
wvfc More than 1 year ago
It is clear Lucia Ewing suffered greatly during the times she chronicles in this memoir, yet she has done the impossible when writing about them. She is clear-eyed, unsentimental and fair. This is a book for anyone with any questions about religion, death, family relationships or survival and for everyone who wants to read an honest author with something important to say.
LianeCarter More than 1 year ago
Ms. Greenhouse is a gifted wordsmith, and her skillful use of the telling detail drives this harrowing narrative of a famiy undone by a religion few of us know. Reflective, honest and brave, her memoir is a moving testament to the power of healing through writing. It is also a page turner; I read it in one sitting. A perfect book club selection. Don't miss it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An eye opening account of christian science. Well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read - I could not put it down. Beautifully and masterfully written; Lucia is a talented writer.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a heart-felt, well written account of how much one wants to believe their parents, to love their parents, and to respect their parents. The honest recounting of how Lucia struggled with those concepts as she grew and matured, and the conflicts she struggled with within herself regarding those concepts, showed how courageous she was to put her story into writing. I commend her with both thumbs up!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a facinating book and extremely well written. I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hope the author does a follow up book. The memoir was very informative, but I want more info. For example, why did the drug abuse in two of the sibling become a problem? Has the author ask professional if this behavior is typical of parents of this sect? Why didn't the author study Biblical teaching to grow beyond this abusive father? I felt this was a book worth reading and as you can see it will make you question it and continue to think about it. A+++ job.
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