Born just after World War II, Judith Fisher had a seemingly normal childhood, but beneath the veneer of middle-class normalcy, her mother battled depression, migraines, and addiction to prescription pain relievers. By the time Judith was ten, her mom had suffered three nervous breakdowns and had had a number of electroshock treatments. In an attempt to gain control over her own troubled life, she maintained strict control over her daughter's every action, forging a bond that was highly manipulative and, at the same time, loving.
By age fourteen, young Judith had absorbed all the stresses of a dysfunctional family life and was desperate for a way out. She attempted suicide, but survived. A year later, she departed for a New England boarding school, a welcome relief from her troubled home, and a hope for recovery. In her senior year, however, through a series of misfortunes and betrayals, Judith's parents had her incarcerated in a mental hospital for seven months; there she was subjected to twenty-seven electroshock treatments and an attempted rape. Somehow, she lived through these appalling abuses and managed to escape being locked up permanently.