Lucia Ewing Greenhouse had a story to tell. It just took her 24 years to tell it. Unlike many authors, it wasn’t because she had a hard time finding a publisher. At her 25th Brown reunion, she ran into an old friend who told her she was becoming a literary agent. Greenhouse said she’d been working on a memoir and Kimberly Witherspoon told her to send it.
By Robin Jovanovich
Lucia Ewing Greenhouse had a story to tell. It just took her 24 years to tell it.
Unlike many authors, it wasn’t because she had a hard time finding a publisher. At her 25th Brown reunion, she ran into an old friend who told her she was becoming a literary agent. Greenhouse said she’d been working on a memoir and Kimberly Witherspoon told her to send it.
“We shopped it, amazingly had two bidders, I did some editing and adding on, and the book was published last month,” said the new author.
Within days of its publication, “fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science” had received high praise from the Minnesota Star-Tribune, write-ups in O and Marie Claire, and great interest from individuals and families recovering from similar harrowing experiences and those still trying to break away from what they’d found to be a rigid, isolating, and unspiritual system.
“I kept a journal my whole life, but I started writing the story of our family in 1986, a few months after my mother died. I was 24. She was 50. She died because in her adopted faith — my father was a Christian Science public practitioner — illness doesn’t exist, it’s an erroneous belief and you don’t go to doctors.”
In the book she reveals that her father kept her mother’s illness a secret from the family. Home for Christmas, Lucia, the middle child, pressed until she was told that her mother hadn’t been herself for several months. Her mother was “treated” in a Christian Science facility for several months, and only taken to a hospital emergency room when she was so ill that there was little chance she’d make it through the night.
“If we’d told my mother’s mother and siblings how sick she was, we were threatened with not being able to see our mother.”
The memoir is especially haunting because much of the Ewing children’s early childhood was nurturing and loving. Their parents read to them every night and prayed together; they were a happy, close-knit family. But as the children grew up and started questioning some of the entrenched beliefs, especially when they had chicken pox or had suffered an injury, neither which existed according to their father, their parents became increasingly silent and devoted to their faith.
They moved the family from Minnesota to London, and sent Lucia and her older sister and younger brother to Christian Science boarding schools.
“In some ways it was a relief not to have to explain who you were,” she said.
When she was a student at Brown, Lucia had such a bad infection that she went to the infirmary, where she was given antibiotics. “I got better almost immediately. That was the beginning of my departure from Christian Science. I’d been brought up to believe it was a protection, but I also understood that religious freedom is a right.”
Not long after meeting her future husband, David Greenhouse, Lucia felt she must share the story of her family. “It’s not exactly dinner table conversation but he was empathetic from the start.”
The Greenhouses have four children, ages 18 to 11. “When my son was a fifth grader at Milton, he asked me, ‘How long have you been writing your story Mom?’ I told him and he chastised me, “That’s only eight words a day!”
The hardest part of writing the memoir for Lucia was “revisiting a difficult time, knowing that I was putting my family through it.”
She wrote the book in David’s home office when he wasn’t in it, at the dining room table, at the Rye library. “I still get intimidated by the term ‘writer.’”
The next part of her journey, after spending time promoting her book, is theology. “I’m wary of indoctrination but I want to pass on knowledge on to my children. One of my sons said he’s an Episcoterian.”
Lucia Greenhouse will be speaking about her memoir and signing copies at the Rye Free Reading Room September 25 at 4 p.m.