About Greetings From Utopia Park• Hardcover: 288 pages
• Publisher: Harper (June 7, 2016)
In this engrossing memoir, Claire Hoffman recounts the remarkable years she spent growing up in an increasingly isolated meditation community in the American heartland.
When Claire Hoffman’s alcoholic father abandons his family, his struggling wife, Liz, tells five-year-old Claire 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—Maharishi’s method of meditation and his approach to living the fullest possible life—promises world peace and Enlightenment just as their family is falling apart.
At first this secluded utopia offers warmth and support, and makes these outsiders feel calm, secure, and connected to the world. At the Maharishi School, Claire learns Maharishi’s philosophy for living and meditates with her class. With the promise of peace and Enlightenment constantly on the horizon, every day is infused with magic and meaning. But as Claire and Stacey mature, their adolescent skepticism kicks in, drawing them away from the community and into delinquency and drugs. To save herself, Claire moves to California to live with her father, breaking from Maharishi completely. After she works for a decade in journalism and academia, the challenges of adulthood propel her back to Iowa, where she reexamines her spiritual upbringing and tries to reconnect with the magic of her childhood.
Greetings from Utopia Park takes us deep into a complex, unusual world, illuminating its joys and comforts as well as its disturbing problems. While there is no utopia on earth, Hoffman finds, there are noble goals worth striving for: believing in belief itself, finding inner peace, and reaching a firm understanding that there is a larger fabric of the universe to which we all belong.
My Thoughts:"Greetings From Utopia Park" is a fascinating look at the world of transcendental mediation, the "guru" who founded the phenomenon, and how it affected one woman's childhood and ultimate adulthood.
Claire Hoffman describes how her parents originally got into the whole "transcendental meditation" movement and how she, as a tiny little girl, was given her own secret mantra to chant. She also describes how she fell out of "enchantment" with the whole idea of "utopia," and how it affected her entire life. It makes for interesting reading as Hoffman relates the ups and downs her family had taken over the years and how even after all the heartache and sorrow, there was still an attraction for the mystery of it all.
I recommend this memoir for those interested in a look at an unusual childhood surrounded by mysticism, mantras and a bit of madness.
About Claire HoffmanClaire Hoffman writes for national magazines and holds a Master’s degree in Religion from the University of Chicago, and a Master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University. She was a staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times and has reported for the New York Times. She serves on the board of her family foundation, the Goldhirsh Foundation, as well as ProPublica and the Columbia Journalism School. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Find out more about Claire at her website and follow her on Twitter.
Tour StopsTuesday, June 7th: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, June 9th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Monday, June 13th: Life By Kristen
Wednesday, June 15th: Tina Says…
Monday, June 20th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, June 22nd: Rambling Reviews
Thursday, June 23rd: Becklist
Monday, June 27th: Back Porchervations
Tuesday, June 28th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Tuesday, June 28th: I Brought a Book
Wednesday, June 29th: 5 Minutes For Books
Thursday, June 30th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Friday, July 1st: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Tuesday, July 5th: Ace and Hoser Blook
Thursday, July 7th: Book Addiction
My thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this blog tour and to Harper Collins Books for providing the review copy. I was not compensated for my opinion.