Monday, June 20, 2016

Blog Tour: Greetings From Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman

Author: Claire Hoffman
Publisher: Harper
Date of publication: June 2016

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.

Greetings from Utopia Park is a memoir about the author's time growing up in the Transcendental Meditation Movement headed by Maharishi.  The largest headquarters in the US is centered in Iowa.  Her story is one of poverty, trying to fit in and figuring out how meditation can help her in her life.

I have read other memoirs about growing up in cults/religious organizations and I really enjoyed them.  While this one was well written, I had a hard time connecting with it.  I think I was expecting more of something along the lines of Troublemaker by Leah Remini.  I'm not sure after finishing the book that I really got a sense of the organization as a whole. The author hints several times at possible scandals but never really provides a lot of background on them.  I also got the sense, that while she questioned a lot of the teachings and rituals put forth by Marharishi, she was reluctant to really commit to saying anything bad about it.  

I am not a meditator, but I have friends who do and they fully believe that it helps calm them and focus them throughout the day.  I was glad to see that while the author doesn't live in "Utopia" anymore, she does still use mediation.  The ending was a bit fast.  I would have liked to see her life with her father in California and college to see how it contrasted with life in Iowa. But sadly, that is kind of glossed over.

I think that people who like memoirs will find this one interesting.  While it isn't the best memoir I have read, I still felt compelled to read the whole book.  

About Claire 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 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.

Purchase Links

Tour Stops
Tuesday, 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: I Brought a Book
Monday, June 27th: Back Porchervations
Tuesday, June 28th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
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
Purchase Links

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I've tried meditation a few times and found it very helpful. I can definitely see the appeal.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!