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This Disturbing Childhood Memoir Changes What It Means to Be Superhuman
Cover: Little, Brown and Company/Background: Twenty20

Maude Julien was supposed to be a superhuman.

At least according to her parents, who “trained” her to accept this fate by imprisoning and abusing her for more than a decade.

Now she’s sharing the details of her bizarre and disturbing childhood in a chilling memoir, The Only Girl in the World.

Julien’s father, a paranoid, narcissistic conspiracy theorist, convinced her mother the two of them would have a baby who would eventually “control the weak-minded and bring about the great regeneration of the universe.”

That baby was Maude. Raised in near isolation in the rat-infested cellar of a secluded estate near Dunkirk, France, she was subjected to horrifying forms of so-called training, from being allowed to bathe only twice a month (in her parents’ bathwater, in order to benefit from their energies) to eating only stale bread (there was fresh bread available). Her parents also shunned medical care when she was sick and ignored her sexual abuse by a handyman who worked at the house. The only forms of solace were her music lessons and animals.

After years of suffering, Julien caught a minor break when a music teacher, sensing what was going on, convinced her parents to move their lessons to his house, ultimately allowing her to escape.

After years (years) of therapy, Julien became a therapist herself, specializing in manipulation and psychological control.

Reminiscent of Emma Donoghue’s Room and Jeanette Walls’s The Glass Castle, The Only Girl in the World is by no means a happy read. What it is is a powerful testament to the atrocities a person can endure and overcome. 

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