Never judge a book by its cover, so the saying goes.
But the cover of Rye’s first time author Lucia Ewing Greenhouse goes pretty far nonetheless.
The journey begins with the intriguing run-in-almost stream of consciousness title: “Fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science.”
Between the covers of that book is a memoir of growing up in a family that was ultimately consumed and destroyed by the parents’ unwavering belief in one of America’s least understood and most secretive religions –Christian Science, an “anachronism,” according to the author.
Why an anachronism?
Because it dates back to Christian Science's founding in the 19th century, when there were no such things as X-rays and penicillin. A visit to the doctor’s office could be a risky business with too much left to chance, according to Ms. Greenhouse.
Trust in Christian Science beliefs about non-medical intervention brought Lucia and her siblings face-to-face with the reality their mother was dying in December 1985 and they were powerless to save her.
They watched her agonized suffering until it was too late and faced scrutiny from the doctors their parents finally sought. And endured the stinging rebuke from relatives who didn’t share their parents’ religious values.
Nearly a quarter-of-a-century in the writing,the memoir covers numerous milestones and turning points in the journey that led Lucia, now married with four kids ranging in age from 11 to 18, to finally complete her book in Rye after a chance remark about the Algonquin Indians from one of her kids.
Lucia was nudging one of her sons, then a fifth grader at the Milton School, to complete a report about the Algonquins as the deadline loomed.
She remembers he essentially said: “You’ve been writing your book for like something like 20 years now.” He then googled some figures and came up with a mathematical analysis: “That comes to something like writing ten words a day.”
Inspired, Lucia enrolled in the Writing a Memoir program at Sarah Lawrence College.
Her childhood led her from Minneapolis to London to various Christian Science private schools to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. And from there to love, marriage, a family, and a home in Rye where her husband, David, runs a financial advisory business.
In brief: Lucia grew up living with her mother, father, sister and brother in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where they enjoyed private schools, sleep-away camps, a country club membership, and skiing vacations.
She was surrounded by a tight-knit extended family, and doted on by her parents. So she grew up feeling loved and cared for, except when it came to accidents and illnesses. That’s when they prayed, and called a Christian Science practicioner instead of seeking medical advice.
As a teenager, Lucia recalled, her visit to an opthalmologist created a family crisis. That’s what came from growing up in Christian Science, in a home where you could not be sick; where no medicine, even aspirin was allowed. She was a sophomore at Brown before she had her first physical. All of which led up to her mother’s suffering and dying without medical intervention until it was too late.
Lucia painstakingly draws her biographical sketch in a haunting book that takes a look at the Christian Science faith and chronicles the complicated legacy to her family.
The book has been enthusiastically reviewed in Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, Marie Claire, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Leonard Lopate’s WNYC radio show.
Lucia will flesh out her story during an upcoming reception, book signing and conversation this Sunday at the Rye Free Reading Room at 4 p.m. that will include a Q-and-A session with her neighbor, CBS correspondent Anthony Mason.