About the Book:
Maude Julien's parents were fanatics who believed it was their sacred duty to turn her into the ultimate survivor - raising her in isolation, tyrannizing her childhood and subjecting her to endless drills designed to "eliminate weakness." Maude learned to hold an electric fence for minutes without flinching, and to sit perfectly still in a rat-infested cellar all night long (her mother sewed bells onto her clothes that would give her away if she moved). She endured a life without heat, hot water, adequate food, friendship, or any kind of affectionate treatment.
But Maude's parents could not rule her inner life. Befriending the animals on the lonely estate as well as the characters in the novels she read in secret, young Maude nurtured in herself the compassion and love that her parents forbid as weak. And when, after more than a decade, an outsider managed to penetrate her family's paranoid world, Maude seized her opportunity.
By turns horrifying and magical, The Only Girl in the World is a story that will grip you from the first page and leave you spellbound, a chilling exploration of psychological control that ends with a glorious escape.
Most of the time when I think of child abuse I think of adults who cannot control their tempers or who sexually abuse children or who neglect them. I don't think of people who purposefully set out to conceive and raise a child who knows no tenderness or care. Showing emotions such as fear or love--or even showing that you had a preference about things was considered a weakness in her family and weaknesses were things to be eliminated.
Maude was removed from school when she was four and the family moved to a large estate. Her contact with outsiders became less and less frequent until she was a teen. She managed to "escape" because a tutor realized how bad things were and convinced her parents that things would be worse at his school.
Surprisingly, Maude made it out alive, and with her sense of humanity intact. My heartstrings tugged as a read what happened to her as a child and I kept wondering how many people had any idea what was happening to her. I kept wondering what could have been done to help her. As a volunteer who works with children in my Catholic parish, I have to attend "Safe Environment" training regularly and one of the topics is recongizing characteristics of abused children. Hopefully, if I ever have an abused child in my groups I will recongize it and be able to help the child.
I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley. Grade: B+