Delicate look at an unusual childhood by an author who has published poems and essays in The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. Simmons was raised as a Christian Scientistthat is, as a believer in the ``Father-Mother God'' and in the absolute contrast between the ``mortal mind'' or ordinary people and the pure spiritual mind of fellow Christian Scientists. Most of this book records his difficult divorce from this American-bred church, which denies the reality of physical phenomena and therefore, in its most famous tenet, rejects the values of modern medicine. Whenever Simmons got sick as a kid, the cure was prayeralthough sometimes his mother would ``fill a heavy old woolen sock with salt, heat it in the oven, and place it over my ear.'' Such unorthodox treatment usually meant long bouts of pain, assuaged by the child's sense of living in a world enfolded in God's love. Simmons dwells wistfully on his mother, who found her artistic abilities thwarted by church and societal expectations, his ``hard'' father, and the Christian Science Church, which ``enchained us with its freedom.'' In time he found escape through model-building, motorcycle-riding, sex, poetry, and the joys of his own family, especially his son, whom he raises by the dictates of conventional medicine. Too much family material that will interest few outside the Simmons clan, and the author loves the pretentious phrase (``And that love made it possible for the architecture of my words to mean something.''). Nonetheless, the details of this Christian Science upbringing enthrall.
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