GOD'S PERFECT CHILD By Caroline Fraser Metropolitan/Henry Holt 561 pp., $30
Caroline Fraser launches her 500 page attack on Christian Science by confessing, "For reasons that I hope will become obvious, I did not seek, nor was I given, access to the archives of the Christian Science Church."
This openness about her lack of interest in the church's historical records is a clear indication that "God's Perfect Child" isn't a dispassionate search for the truth about Christian Science as it has been practiced by five generations of families. Instead, it is a frontal assault on the idea that prayer can have a healing effect.
Without any apparent irony, Fraser complains that partisanship has long distorted writing on Christian Science. She then presents an attack so virulent that it can't be of constructive use to the church she purports to describe or the public she hopes to enlighten.
Problems of method and tone run throughout. Setting aside a journalist's objectivity, the author claims her childhood enables her to deliver an intimate portrait of the church. But she describes a home that bears little relationship to the typical Christian Science family.
She claims her strict father "was offended by seat belts" because they implied accidents could happen. Fraser asserts that her mother secretly gave the children medicine "out of a bottle she kept hidden in the pocket of her raincoat."
From this household that few Christian Scientists would recognize, Fraser presents what she claims is an insider's expos of a worldwide religious movement "content to live a veiled existence." One can almost hear the "Hard Copy" theme music rising in the margins.