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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science

Lucia Greenhouse’s memoir reveals how her family was torn apart by her father’s strict adherence to Christian Science tenets even while her mother was dying of cancer. The author’s blog continues the conversation.

fathermothergod is an Oprah Book to Watch for August, and brings to my mind the amazing, Alex-Award winning memoir Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres (Counterpoint, 2006).

For more on teens and religion take a look at this terrific post on YALSA’s literature blog, The Hub, titled Thou Shalt Not — Religion and Teen Books. It offers suggestions of how religion should and should not be portrayed in YA literature, and links to lists of religiously-themed books. One of the comments points to a 2007 PPYA (Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) list titled Religion: Relationship with the Divine.

GREENHOUSE, Lucia. fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science. 320p. Crown. Aug. 2011. Tr $25. ISBN 9787-0-307720924. LC number unavailable.


Adult/High School–While Greenhouse was raised in the faith, the subtitle doesn’t do the book justice. She doesn’t document her journey as much as she does the impact Christian Science has on her family. Born to converts to CS, Lucia, like most readers, follows the faith of her parents without quite understanding it; she is aware that the rest of her family does not share their beliefs. As she ages, she begins to question what she does believe and the efficacy of prayer over modern medicine, placing her in direct conflict with her father. The Eyeglasses Rebellion, when Lucia realizes that she needs glasses, a direct contradiction of CS belief, is the first real break. Shortly after her college graduation, Lucia notices that her mother is not well, and the ensuing conflicts over her care (or lack thereof) and death are poignantly captured; her maternal grandmother and aunts and uncles are kept out of the loop until close to the end, leading her uncle to threaten to sue the family. It’s no surprise that the author and her father remained relatively estranged until his death. Rather than a journey out of a faith, this is the story of one woman’s questioning and anguish over her parents’ choices. Teens wondering about their own faith, their parents’ expectations, and how to marry the two will find that this book resonates with them. It will also appeal to anyone wanting to know what it’s like to grow up in Christian Science, although Greenhouse does not go deeply into the tenets and beliefs. Suggest that readers have tissues close at hand. They’ll need them.–Laura Pearle, Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. From the review I am already skeptical about any accuracy of portrayal the book might have on growing up in a Christian Science family. First, the title of the book seems odd as the words should be capitalized in Christian Science teaching: “Father-Mother God”.

    Also, it is false to say that eye glasses are “a direct contradiction of CS belief”. Eye glasses are viewed as a sort of “crutch” to use while expecting healing–and healings of this type have been recorded. It is drugs and prescriptions that are not in line with CS teaching. Drugs and doctors were not recommended or prescribed by Jesus in his healing work. The fact that Luke, a physician, recorded Jesus’ healings is relevant for this reason. Christian Science basis its teachings on the healing method of Christ Jesus, a method that was lost around 300 A.D.

    I am not doubting the author’s experience, but to me it sounds as though her parents did not have a correct sense of practicing Christian Science. There are some very natural, normal Christian Scientists who live the genuine practicality of their denomination. There are also those who misrepresent the religion.

    The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, “The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love.” (Science and Health, p. 367)

    I do not believe that this book is a portrayal of “legitimate Christian Science”.

  2. FatherMotherGod is an honest portrayal of the author’s experience. As a MEMOIR, it does not present itself, nor attempt to be, a book to explain the tenets of CS teaching. Although appropriate for YA, FatherMotherGod is being heralded all over the country as choice for adults. It received a Kirkus starred review as well has high marks from Goodreads and Oprah Magazine. I am sharing it with all of my literary colleagues because I found it to be a well written, thought provoking title. As Ms. Pearle indicates, any reader over 14 would enjoy this title.

  3. I’m always fascinated by those who can judge the contents of a book without having read it! Had you read the book, Anne, you’d have learned that Lucia’s father was a Christian Science practitioner, not just a believer – her parents were very well versed in Christian Science and its beliefs about health, illness and the power of prayer.

    This book is less about what I think you’re calling “legitimate Christian Science” and more about the author’s dealing with how her parents’ beliefs affected the family, particularly during her mother’s illness (as I said in my review, “Rather than a journey out of a faith, this is the story of one woman’s questioning and anguish over her parents’ choices.”) If you are a Christian Scientist, it probably will be difficult to accept how the “medical” decisions of believers can hurt close friends and relatives who do not share that belief.

    Any book that talks about religion will find opponents who firmly hold that the author does not understand or is deliberately misrepresenting that faith. However, readers of this book should be aware that the author does not indulge in religion bashing (which I suspect Anne is afraid it does) but merely reports *her* experiences as a member of this family. Still, not every book will appeal to every reader.

  4. There’s much that’s deeply pathetic about this book, and one’s heart inevitably goes out to dysfunctional families in the face of death.  But the self-centered and guilt-ridden efforts of the chain-smoking author to misrepresent Christian Science and its practice is at best dishonest and at worst patent muckraking for the purpose of making money and glorifying her own ego. The choices made by her parents were theirs to make, although they ignored the CS doctrine of leaving surgery “to the skillful fingers of a surgeon,” utilizing pain killers, and seeking medical means if healing is not developing.  The author seems to have no knowledge of these options open to Christian Scientists.

  5. I have to agree with the other reviewers that this is more of a diatribe from one individual about how a religion was presented to her, but does nothing to contextualize or offer information about the religion in a broader sense. This is more a psychological history of family dysfunction.