BLUE WINDOWS by Barbara Wilson

BLUE WINDOWS

A Christian Science Childhood
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 This sensitive, eloquent coming-of-age story articulates the often painful intersections of religion, power, illness, and death. Mystery writer Wilson (Trouble in Transylvania, 1993, etc.) departs from fiction here to unveil her Christian Science upbringing in uncompromising, often disturbing detail. The crux of the book is how family and faith fall apart when the author's mother, a devout Christian Scientist, dies of breast cancer at a relatively young age (and after a failed suicide attempt). Given Christian Science's teaching that illness and death are merely errors of the mind that must be corrected, the family was forbidden to mourn this loss. Such denial meant that grief and anger were channeled into other, often horrifying, modes of expression: her father's remarriage to a sadistic woman and the author's own floundering, which made her receptive to her new stepbrother's sexual advances. In this sense, the book is an unforgettable testimony to the destructive powers of some religious beliefs. But paradoxically, it is also a nuanced acknowledgment of the ways in which sectarian religion orders the chaos of the world, providing new opportunities for its followers. Wilson concedes, for instance, that Christian Science healing continues to provide an important outlet for women, who comprise almost 90 percent of healers. She can also see that Christian Science helped her to define her own strength as a woman--her identity forged not just through surviving her mother's death but through more mundane statements of faith, such as her refusal to accept a school polio vaccine in the 1950s. Historically informed and refreshingly candid--though a bit too long--this offers not just an individual memoir of an increasingly obscure religious movement, but also a more general exploration of the crises of faith and health in the 20th century. (Of particular interest is Wilson's parallel of contemporary guru Deepak Chopra with Mary Baker Eddy.)

Pub Date: March 17th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15066-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997




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