Friday, September 14, 2012

Sickened, by Julie Gregory

As a child, Julie was always sickly.  Years and years were spent trying to determine what specific heart problems she had that made her childhood so awful.  After suffering various types of abuse for years, Julie leaves her family as a young adult and strives to find wholeness.  It is as an adult that she learns of Munchausen by Proxy, and realizes everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie.

This book made me nauseated when I read it, but I am very glad I read it.  The book details the incredibly disturbing childhood of a girl trapped in a dysfunctional family.  All I could think as I read it was that this situation was completely bonkers, and this girl is lucky to have survived.  I am going on the assumption that this is a true memoir, but there have been claims that this entire story has been falsified.  Many times memoirs of severely abused children draw fire for being false.  Perhaps they are false, or perhaps we want to think they are, because we cannot believe such monsters exist in the world.  But these monsters do exist.  As of right now, I am not sure there is enough conclusive evidence to determine the truth or lack thereof in terms of Julie's story.

I was familiar with Munchaisen by Proxy, having learned about it in abnormal psychology classes in college and graduate school.  For a while in the 1990's, it seemed like this was a hot new diagnosis, with many a made for t.v. movie cropping up.  But this is the first time I have ever heard an actual account of someone having lived through this situation (at least claiming to have anyway).  I found it fascinating and disturbing.  Like spectators at a car wreck craning their necks to survey the carnage, I simply could not look away.

In terms of the writing, I found for the most part the book progressed in a logical manner.  However, there were times that I could not keep the timeline straight, as Julie may have been talking about her 11th year, and mentioned a memory from her teen years.  It did get a little muddy at times, and I found the end of the book to lack closure.  I think that the portion of the book detailing Julie's life with her parents is captivating, but when she leaves home, the book takes a different tone, and it just seemed a little off.

All in all, I was captivated by the book.  I am unsure what is worse, believing that someone would do these terrible things to their child (and I know that many people do) or believing that someone would make it all up to sell a book.  

I borrowed this book from a friend.


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