Thursday, May 4, 2017

Perfect little world, by Kevin Wilson

Dr. Preston Grind spent his childhood as part of an experiment his child psychologist parents imposed on him.  Calling it the “Constant Friction Method,” his otherwise loving parents were determined to prepare him better for life by not sugar-coating the reality of the world.  Instead of protecting him from unpleasantness, they amplified it to help him understand the “constant friction” of living.  For example, instead of making him comfortable while sleeping, they would randomly remove him from his crib and put him on the cold floor. When he was learning to crawl, they attached weights to his ankles to make it more difficult.  Needless to say, Dr. Grind, who followed them into psychology as an adult, was more than a little messed up by this upbringing.  His response was to develop his own theory of childrearing as set out in “The Artificial Village,” the best-selling book he wrote describing a more or less communal living situation where children would be raised by all the adults around them.  The book catches the eye of a wealthy donor who provides the funding for “The Infinite Family” project.  Ten couples about to have their first child are recruited, carefully screened, invited to join, and the theory is put into practice. A complex with separate homes, communal dining and activity areas, and a dormitory for the children is built.   One catch, the couples, who are required to sign on for a ten year stint, must not have any more children during this period, and none of the babies will learn which of the couples their birth parents are until they are five.  The only non-couple is single mother, Izzy, a brilliant high school student with her own troubled background, who has become pregnant by her art teacher her senior year.  With him permanently out of the picture, and her father an alcoholic who never got over the death of Izzy’s agoraphobic mother, Izzy sees participation in this experiment as a lifeline.  Needless to say, there are snakes in this perfect little world.  336 pp.

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