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Book Review: 'Paradise Fever: Growing Up in the Shadow of the New Age'

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The name alone — Ptolemy Tompkins — would tarnish any kid’s self-image, but this one (whose father, Peter, wrote the cracked classic The Secret Life of Plants) had a wacky ’70s childhood to match it. Womb regression, past-life investigations, and Scientology were standard fare in his household, along with Tompkins Sr.’s extramarital live-in lovers, one of whom stayed for more than a decade. Not surprisingly, Tompkins numbed himself to his father’s self-serving New Age antics by dousing his brain with drugs and alcohol and becoming a skeptic. This well-written memoir is an incisive piece of period commentary that devolves, regrettably, into a mundane tale of substance abuse. B+