by Rebecca Coleman

Mira, $15.95, 346 pages

Rebecca Coleman’s debut novel, The Kingdom of Childhood is a psychological thriller vividly chronicling the sexual entanglement of a lonely Waldorf school kindergarten teacher, wife and mother, Judy McFarland with a bewildered, new-to-town high school student named Zach Patterson. Judy’s husband, absorbed in his work, is oblivious of his wife’s emotional and sexual needs. Zach struggles to understand his own mother’s recent extramarital affair and subsequent family move. The two cross paths when Zach is assigned to help Mrs. McFarland with a fundraising project for their struggling school. One inadvertent physical encounter leads to another which rapidly escalates and spirals out of control.

The premise of the novel is perverse, yet plausible; however, the idea of Judy having a teenage son, Scott, the same age as Zach, defies belief. This detail undermines the story’s believability while increasing its overall repulsiveness. The novel’s quick progression is brilliantly balanced with the descriptive narrative of Judy’s intriguing youth spent in Germany. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, Judy’s life is overshadowed by pain and disillusionment suggesting a possible explanation for her bizarre and illegal behavior. Interwoven in the story are interesting details of the Waldorf educational philosophy and rituals. Although The Kingdom of Childhood is a compulsive read while some, like this reviewer, might find themselves flinching at the explicit details of such depraved behavior.

Kimberly E. Logan-Elwell