Girls and Their Monsters

The Genain Quadruplets and the Making of Madness in America


By Audrey Clare Farley

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$28.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 4, 2024. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

For readers of Hidden Valley Road and Patient H.M., an “intimate and compassionate portrait” (Grace M. Cho) of the Genain quadruplets, the harrowing violence they experienced, and its psychological and political consequences.​

In 1954, researchers at the newly formed National Institute of Mental Health set out to study the genetics of schizophrenia. When they got word that four 24-year-old identical quadruplets had been diagnosed with the mental illness, they could hardly believe it. Here was incontrovertible proof of hereditary transmission. But the case of the pseudonymous Genain quadruplets was hardly so straightforward.

Contrary to fawning media portrayals of a picture-perfect Christian family, the sisters had endured the stuff of nightmares behind closed doors and been the object of paranoid public fantasies. Even as the sisters' erratic behaviors became impossible to ignore and the NIMH whisked the women off for study, their sterling image did not falter. Girls and Their Monsters chronicles the extraordinary, shocking lives of the quadruplets while exploring the delusions that gripped the American psyche in the middle of the twentieth century.


  • “Farley’s book is truly a case of reality being stranger than fiction, a highly researched yet readable account of a shocking piece of U.S. history that doesn’t show up in textbooks.”
    The Associated Press
  • "In constructing an intimate portrait of the decades-long relationship between the Morlok family and the federally funded scientists who studied them, Farley examines the way American institutions and culture crucially shaped the construction of madness at mid-century. . . Girls and Their Monsters is a timely reminder of just how imperative this awakening is."
    Los Angeles Review of Books
  • "The violence and dysfunction Farley describes is gothically sordid, painful to read about and entirely believable."
    New York Times
  • “A powerful book that should provoke deeper reflection on how we come to grips with madness.”
    Psychology Today
  • "[A] powerful but unsettling tale. . . Farley tightly interweaves the quadruplets’ lives with the story of America’s fraught relationship with mental illness. Haunting and impactful, this story does not leave the mind easily."
    Kirkus Reviews, starred review
  • "Farley recounts the sad story of the Genain quadruplets in a narrative that amply draws on published documents and new interviews to illuminate elusive truths within family chaos. . . As much a study of parenting as it is of what psychologists once thought of parents, Girls and Their Monsters follows Robert Kolker’s Hidden Valley Road (2020) as another unsettling, behind-closed-doors look at families and mental illness."
  • “Farley’s narrative is based in deep research and makes for her nuanced analysis of the country’s shifting attitudes toward childhood and mental health. Readers will be riveted.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “In Girls and Their Monsters, Audrey Clare Farley embraces the complexity of mental health and human relationships. In her hands, the story of the Genain quadruplets is at once disturbing and heartening. It’s a tale of despair and resilience, about the ways we hurt each other and lift each other up.”
    Josh Levin, award-winning author of The Queen
  • "Girls and Their Monsters is both an intimate and compassionate portrait of girls growing up under the constant gaze of media, doctors and government agencies, and a well-researched analysis of a nation in the grip of social illness. Farley shows us the interplay between American eugenics, white supremacy, and the hidden and widespread abuse of children within their own homes and communities, and how these monstrosities created the conditions for a madness that was deemed a biological disease of the individual. This book is brilliant and riveting."
    Grace M. Cho, author of National Book Award Finalist, Tastes Like War

    "In Audrey Clare Farley's book, the fascinating and unsettling case—and the worldwide media sensation it caused—is carefully revisited to expose what it meant to be considered an unfit parent and how easily family can become foes."
    Town and Country
  • “Expertly blending biography and history, and using the life of Ann Cooper Hewitt as a backdrop, Farley has created an absorbing biography effectively explaining how the legacy of eugenics still persists today. Hewitt’s story will engage anyone interested in women’s history.”
    Library Journal
  • The Unfit Heiress is a sensational story told with nuance and humanity with clear reverberations to the present. Historian Audrey Clare Farley's writing jumps off the page, as Ann Cooper Hewitt, once a one-dimensional tabloid fixation, is brought into full relief as a complicated victim of her time, standing in the crosshairs of the growing eugenics movement and the emergence of a "over-sexed" and "dangerous" New Woman. But most importantly, this book is a necessary call to remember the high stakes and terrible history of the longstanding fight for control over women's bodies.”
    Susannah Cahalan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire

On Sale
Jun 4, 2024
Page Count
320 pages

Audrey Clare Farley

About the Author

Audrey Clare Farley is the author of The Unfit Heiress, a page-turning drama about eugenics framed by the story of Ann Cooper Hewitt, as well as a scholar of twentieth-century American literature and culture. She earned a PhD in English from University of Maryland, College Park, and now teaches history and creative writing. Her essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other outlets. She lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania. 

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