Claire Hoffman’s memoir, GREETINGS FROM UTOPIA: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood(Harper), is about a five-year old abandoned by dad, living with her mother and seven-year old brother, Stacey at the Maharashi’s national headquarters for Heaven on earth, in Fairfield, Iowa. I’d argue most people don’t know Fairfield, Iowa, which is located smack in the middle of the US of A, is ground zero for the Transcendental Movement, but it is.
I’m familiar with the whole TM arrangement in Iowa, because I recently read a novel, ROOVILLE(Sparkpress), by Julie Long, who although it was a novel, based on her knowledge, must have had some personal interaction with the TM community in Fairfield.
Back to Claire, her mother really does the best she can at that point. They are given a safe place, schedules and rules to follow, and a philosophy: with the promise of enlightenment. But as Claire gets older, she starts questioning the whole commune deal, gets into drugs and wants to know what’s out there beyond Fairfield.
I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, which I have fond memories of. We went to church every Sunday, followed by a large family dinner. Everything was fine until the Pentecostal movement swept through Catholic churches and my mother was touched by the Holy Spirit and “born again.” She decided to pick up, leave and follow God’s plan for her life.
Like Claire, I’m also a journalist, so I can read and write about religion from some perspective. It doesn’t completely eliminate the many questions I have about organized religion, particularly when it comes to isolating members.
I found Claire’s novel interesting. She approached her writing as a journalist. I felt after reading it, there’s much more to the story. Claire is honest, but GREETINGS FROM UTOPIA isn’t the whole story. I’ve read many memoirs and most have some element of interest, but to be a great memoir, the writer has to be willing to be completely raw on the page. Perhaps there will be a follow-up. There’s certainly enough material.
I applaud Claire for her success. She had an extremely tough upbringing, nothing was handed to her and she worked hard to achieve her success. Bravo, Ms. Hoffman.
Claire 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 LA Times and has reported for the NY 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 LA.
About Claire Hoffman
Thanks to TLC Book Tours http://www.tlcbooktours.com and Harper Publishers, we have one copy of GREETINGS FROM UTOPIA to giveaway. Just tell us if you have any thoughts about church or religion, or not just leave your name. We’ll pick a winner Tuesday.
Have a happy & safe 4th of July Holiday!