With everything that has been going on, we are a little behind with this month’s book club. We actually ended up skipping March and just getting together via video chat for April. Hopefully, we can meet in person next month, but we are just playing it by ear at this time. We are definitely keeping up with our reading though. This month’s book club book was a very interesting read. We read Adrienne Brodeur’s memoir Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, & Me.
“Deception takes commitment, vigilance, and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it. For years and years, my job was to pile on sand – fistfuls, shovelfuls, bucketfuls, whatever the moment necessitated – in an effort to keep my mother’s secret buried.”Adrienne Brodeur– Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, & Me
The Publisher’s Synopsis…
A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity.
On a hot July night on Cape Cod when Adrienne was fourteen, her mother, Malabar, woke her at midnight with five simple words that would set the course of both of their lives for years to come: Ben Souther just kissed me.
Adrienne instantly became her mother’s confidante and helpmate, blossoming in the sudden light of her attention, and from then on, Malabar came to rely on her daughter to help orchestrate what would become an epic affair with her husband’s closest friend. The affair would have calamitous consequences for everyone involved, impacting Adrienne’s life in profound ways, driving her into a precarious marriage of her own, and then into a deep depression. Only years later will she find the strength to embrace her life—and her mother—on her own terms.
Wild Game is a brilliant, timeless memoir about how the people close to us can break our hearts simply because they have access to them, and the lies we tell in order to justify the choices we make. It’s a remarkable story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were to us.
What I Thought…
“Ben Souther just kissed me.” Malabar woke her daughter up in the middle of a July night in 1980 to tell her this. A man, her second husband’s best friend, had kissed her. “Aren’t you happy for me, Rennie?” she asked. Once Rennie, our narrator and author, had woken up enough to comprehend what was going on. “I looked at her face and into her eyes, dark and dewy with hope, and all at once, I was happy for her. And for me. Malabar was falling in love and she’d picked me as her confidante, a role I hadn’t realized I’d longed for until that moment.” Rennie was only 14 years old but from that moment on, the mother-daughter dynamic was forever changed and Rennie became Malabar’s best friend and willing accomplice. Malabar unwittingly coerses Rennie as an active participant in their adulterous liaison for the next 10 years, using her as a cover for her hook-ups with her lover and getting Rennie to lie on her behalf, both to Charles and to Ben’s wife. “I became her protector and sentinel,” Rennie remembers, adding with chilling clear-sightedness that from now on the main purpose of her existence would be to “bear witness to my mother’s seduction”. “This marked the beginning of the rest of my life.”
Wild Game is a memoir. However, it reads much like a novel with first-person narrator allowing readers closely into the scenes with vivid sensual detail. Details are seen through the adoring eyes of the enthralled daughter that the author once was. One of the main themes we see is food. Malabar was an accomplished cook and cookbook auther. She passes her wide-ranging and sophisticated tastes to her daughter, who was her self-proclaimed taste tester.
To me, what makes this book especially novel-like is how close the author remains to the mindset that she was in at the time of the events unfolding. For the first half of the book, we see the narrative staying close to young Rennie’s inability to see her mother as anything but a wonderful, glamorous, wounded woman. In her mind, her mother led a hard life and deserves happiness at all costs. Rennie is convinced of these facts no matter who might get trampled along the way.
It wasn’t until Rennie’s gap year before college that she was faced with anyone who dared to speak a bad word about her mother. We see Rennie’s first real boyfriend, Adam, ask her “What kind of person would do that to her daughter?” after finding out about the entire story of Ben and Malabar. We see this theme repeating throughout the book until the secret is finally found out later in the book.
Throughout this book, we see the inappropriate and selfish actions by Malabar and the consequences that it reaps on Rennie, her health, her relationships, and the other characters in the book. I was appalled by Malabar’s actions and wondered myself “how anyone could do that to their daughter”? I wanted the author to stop covering for her mother, to stop being abused by her mother.
The book ends in a very civilized way, not with anger or with Rennie abandoning her now ailing mother, but with a revelation that we don’t have to stay unconsciously tethered to or repeat inherited patterns of a toxic relationship. She shows us that family does in fact holds the ties that bind, but you do not have to stay hopelessly, miserably bound.
I would definitely recommend this book. It was a great read.
Next Month’s Selection…
A few other titles I’ve enjoyed over the last few months…
So what are you reading this month?? I would love to hear, I’m always on the lookout for my next favorite read.
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