Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood


Today's nonfiction post is on Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood by Claire Hoffman. It was 288 pages long and is published by Harper. The cover is yellow with a picture of the author in the center. There is mild foul language, talk of sex, and no violence in this book. The intended reader is someone interested in memoirs or the Transcendental Meditation movement. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- When Claire Hoffman is five-years-old, her mother informs her and her seven-year-old brother Stacey, that they are going to heaven—Iowa—to live in Maharishi’s national headquarters for Heaven on Earth. For Claire’s mother, Transcendental Meditation—the Maharishi’s method of meditation and his approach to living the fullest possible life—was a salvo that promised world peace and enlightenment .
At first this secluded utopia offers warmth and support, and makes these outsiders feel calm, secure, and connected to the world. Claire attends the Maharishi school, where her meditations were graded and she and her class learned Maharishi's principals for living. But as Claire and Stacey mature, their adolescent skepticism kicks in, drawing them away from the community and into delinquency and drugs. Eventually, Claire moves to California with her father and breaks from Maharishi completely. A decade later, after making a name for herself in journalism and starting a family, she begins to feel exhausted by cynicism and anxiety. She finds herself longing for the sparkle filled, belief fueled Utopian days in Iowa, meditating around the clock.  So she returns to her hometown in pursuit of TM’s highest form of meditation — levitation. This journey will transform ideas about her childhood, family, and spirituality.
Greetings from Utopia Park takes us deep into this complex, unusual world, illuminating its joys and comforts, and its disturbing problems. While there is no utopia on earth, Hoffman reveals, there are noble goals worth striving for: believing in belief, inner peace, and a firm understanding that there is a larger fabric of the universe to which we all belong.

Review- This was an interesting read about a movement that I knew nothing about. Hoffman starts at a current place in her life trying to find herself as a new wife and mother. So she goes back home to Fairfield, Iowa to see if her past can help her find her future. Hoffman begins when she was three years old and getting her personal meditation word. We spend all her childhood with her from moving from New York to Fairfield. She does not spend much time in her teenage years when she began to leave the movement and try to have a life of her own. While she did so much with this memoir I felt that there was a lot that we did not get and that left some holes in the overall narrative. But still an interesting and at times moving story.

I give this book a Four out of Five stars. I was given this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.