Greetings From Utopia Park: Surviving A Transcendent Childhood by Claire HoffmanGreetings From Utopia Park: Surviving A Transcendent Childhood by Claire Hoffman

Greetings From Utopia Park: Surviving A Transcendent Childhood

byClaire Hoffman

Paperback | June 6, 2017

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In this engrossing, provocative, and intimate memoir, a young journalist reflects on her childhood in the heartland, growing up in an increasingly isolated meditation community in the 1980s and ’90s—a fascinating, disturbing look at a fringe culture and its true believers.

When Claire Hoffman’s alcoholic father abandons his family, his desperate 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—the Maharishi’s method of meditation and his approach to living the fullest possible life—was a salvo that promised world peace and enlightenment just as their family fell 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 with her father and breaks from Maharishi completely. After a decade of working 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 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.

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 Rolling Stone. She serves on the board of her family foundation, the Goldhirsh Foundation, as well as Pr...
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Title:Greetings From Utopia Park: Surviving A Transcendent ChildhoodFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.68 inPublished:June 6, 2017Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0062338854

ISBN - 13:9780062338853

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a wonderful, insightful read. This was an amazing book. I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it. If you’ve never heard or read anything about polygamy, this book brings you into a part of the culture which will shock and surprise you. Anna brings you into her life and doesn’t hold back about her experiences. Her writing draws you in and makes you want to dive deeper into knowing more about the polygamist lifestyle and culture. It’s a wonderful read and your heart will be involved as you read what she’s gone through.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting read What a childhood this woman had. Really opens up your eyes in what some people go through.
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Eye Opening Read This was an intriguing story of a girl who grew up in a cult I had never really heard much about. Likely, I didn't hear about this because most of the crimes this man, Ervil LeBaron, committed were during my early childhood years. Nonetheless, it was interesting to read his daughter's story. She writes about her childhood, growing up shuffled between Texas, Mexico and a few other places along with her sisters, brothers, step-siblings, and half- siblings. Her father had multiple wives and close to fifty children. Her father, Ervil LeBaron, started his own branch off the Mormon church. They practiced polygamy, pre-arranged marriages of under age children, and child labor. They justified lying, stealing, and killing as things they did to further the cause of the kingdom of God. They were not allowed to question authority without severe consequences. Most of the sister-wives and families lived in a state of poverty although they were hard working people, because all the money they earned went to the cause, or to pay lawyers and court costs to get Ervil out of jail. They were "suffering" for the "kingdom of God". They practically lived on the run, never staying in one place for long, shuffled around at night from city to city to escape the authorities. The children were taught to stay quiet if law enforcement came, always answer questions with "I don't know" and were not allowed to make friends on the occasions when they did get to go to school. It was an interesting read, told from Anna's perspective of what she remembers happening to her as a young child. Some things were extremely difficult to swallow. I found it to be very emotionally disturbing, and there were many times I would have liked to ring some necks myself. I didn't learn a whole lot about the cult itself reading through this book, it was more a personal story of Anna's life and how she came to know Christ and broke free from the cult and the lifestyle it contained. But it peaked my curiosity and I looked up further detail on the internet. It is a story of heartache, but also of hope; a reminder that God is still on the throne and through Him we can break free and live a life that is fulfilling, peaceful, and not filled with fear and anxiety. This book is very detailed and it took me a while to get through it. There were times, I honestly just needed to take a break because it would make me so mad! It is really hard to see people so blinded to the truth, so gullible, and so willing to give up everything to follow a corrupt leader in hopes of gaining heaven. I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers to read. All opinions are my own and I was not asked to review this book positively.
Date published: 2017-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brain Washing? A read that will make you realize how lucky you are and how your childhood compared to this poor little girl who really didn’t have one. A survivor for sure, but at what price, and what is told in this true story of the life of Anna LeBaron. I vaguely remember reading about some of the murders that were committed but this cult, and why, well you can’t leave, or the head honcho doesn’t like you or wants what you have. No wonder this girl ends up in therapy, and you have to wonder while reading if it can even help, all that she has been through and seen. You wonder how a mother could allow these things to happen to her child, or leave her, in a foreign country no less, but then I had to think this woman was so brain washed, but it still made it hard to read all that went on. This is a quick page turning read, and once I started the author compelled me to keep reading, all the while I wanted to hug and comfort her, but loved the story right to the end. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Tyndale, and was not required to give a positive review.
Date published: 2017-03-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disturbing I'm glad I read this book but I'm not sure I'll be able to use the right words to express how it made me feel. It's difficult to think about how these atrocious acts were being committed against children on the other side of the world, but in the same world where I was growing up. I felt the author was able to clearly convey her and siblings'/friends' emotions, having to deal with selfish, perhaps brain-washed adults, and being totally at their mercy. She painted a real picture of what it was like, for her, growing up in a "religious" cult. I'm glad that she and most of her family were able to escape the cult's clutches eventually, but sorry that they have not been able to truly realize full and happy, carefree lives. I didn't get the sense that Natacha has had any true redemption from her past. It still seems to have her in its clutches to some extent. She only referred to counseling in the last pages of the book, and didn't go into any details about how extensive it has been. She expressed that counselors couldn't really help a lot because they could not truly empathize with her background. I know the cult's name was originally "Children of God" but I hope that the victims in her family have been able to sort out the differences between this false god worshiped by the cult from The One True God and know that He is loving and does care for them. I think in these types of cases (speaking from some personal experience) it is only God who can truly empathize and heal someone completely from an abusive past. I hope she will continue to heal and am glad she was able to write this book so that we can learn from her experiences.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chilling This is a great look ijnto the struggle of Religious cults from Birth threw escape
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A single tale. As this book follows one person's story it is limited in its scope. There is some detail and information about the Children of God but this is rather slight.
Date published: 2015-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A harrowing tale Vivid description and imagery brings this larger than life story to life. It will make you think for days, long after you've finished reading and rooting for Nachsa's happy ending.
Date published: 2014-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Children of God I read the book she wrote with her sisters. This is far more informative. Horrible to think that this sort of thing still goes on. Very well written.
Date published: 2014-07-30

Editorial Reviews

“Wonderfully intimate: a cautionary tale that develops into one of inspiring self-determination.”