Henrietta St. Bernard grows up in the 1960s, a member of a large family of French-speaking Canadian immigrants trying to survive in an English-speaking country. She is the only child born with the St. Bernard thumb—a pimple-like mass on her chin that finally goes away when she is three months old, leaving a brown spot on her chin from age three.
From an early age, Henrietta experiences severe abuse from her parents and, to a lesser degree, her older siblings. They called her ugly and stupid, eventually settling on the nickname “La Folle”—the crazy girl. As she gets older, the abuse worsens, leaving her with lasting scars on both her body and her soul. Eventually she escapes and begins to build her own life, separate from her family. Over time, as her wounds begin heal, she is able to prove to herself that her family’s words about her were false—that she is neither crazy nor stupid. What’s more, she uses her story to advocate for victims of abuse and for stronger laws to protect them.
In this emotional novel one woman recounts her life story, recalling the abuse she endured at the hands of those who should have cared for her.