The Kingdom of Childhood
Mira, Sep 27 2011, $15.95
In 1998 in Sylvania, Maryland, fortyish Bavarian expatriate Judy McFarland diligently teaches kindergarten as she has for nineteen years at the Waldorf School. Judy misses her childhood in Germany though she tries to ignore her mom’s health and her dad’s womanizing; she also hates her husband an ancient A-hole who possesses less intellect than her students. Her light in her dark existence is son who is a high school senior.
This year she mentors sixteen years old Zach Patterson as he completes his required service hours. Although she knows she should not as she understands the consequences of an illegal tryst with her student including being a social pariah as a sex offender, Judy seduces Zach. They begin an affair but with each clandestine meeting, her fears of exposure grows until they become crippling; yet even with her peers cautioning her to put more distance between her and Zach she cannot end her self and family destruction. Zach begins to realize the cost of the actual fulfillment of his sexual fantasies is the loss of teen innocence but he too cannot say no to his teacher.
The Kingdom of Childhood is a stark psychological thriller that rotates the perspective between the sex partners as each transition from the pre-tryst to the climax. Zach goes from clumsy innocence to gilded adulthood too quickly; Judy is more fascinating as she goes from sex predator to insane predator. Although her childhood traumas that apparently made the adult lack development so are tenuous, readers will want to follow the devoted teacher’s obsessively driven descent into hell.