My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
November 2019 Indie Next List
— Allison Hill, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
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“Exquisite and harrowing.” —New York Times Book Review
“This electrifying, gorgeously written memoir will hold you captive until the last word.” —People
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2019 BY NPR * BuzzFeed * Slate * Chicago Public Library * Real Simple * Library Journal * Washington Post * Amazon * CBC
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.
Praise For Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me…
A Best Book of 2019 from: NPR * BuzzFeed * Slate * People* Chicago Public Library * Real Simple * Library Journal * Washington Post * Amazon * CBC
A Best of Fall Title from: People * Refinery29 * Entertainment Weekly * BuzzFeed * NPR’s On Point * Town & Country * Real Simple * New York Post * Palm Beach Post * Toronto Star * Orange Country Register * Bustle * Bookish * BookPage * Kirkus* BBC Culture* Debutiful
Winner of the New England Society Book Award
A Book of the Month Pick (September)
An Amazon Best of the Month/Spotlight Pick (October)
The Nervous Breakdown Book Club (October)
An Apple Best of the Month (October)
A Bookish “Kelly’s Pick” (Fall)
“Exquisite and harrowing . . . [WILD GAME] is so gorgeously written and deeply insightful, and with a line of narrative tension that never slacks, from the first page to the last, that it’s one you’ll likely read in a single, delicious sitting.” —New York Times Book Review
"Wild Game is a memoir, but it reads very much like a novel with a first-person narrator, bringing readers closely into scenes with vivid sensual detail that paints the atmosphere with the adoring eyes of the enthralled daughter the author once was. Wild Game, for all its luscious prose and tantalizing elements, is ultimately about the slow and painful process of losing a mother." —NPR
"This electrifying, gorgeously written memoir will hold you captive until the last word." —People, “Book of the Week”
"Brodeur is a deft memoirist, portraying Malabar as a woman traumatized by a violent parent and early tragedy. In this stunning tale of treachery—unsettling yet seductive—we are led through some of the darkest and most alluring corridors of the human heart." —O Magazine
"[A] vivid memoir…[Brodeur] writes beautifully, even tenderly, as a mother herself, aware of repercussions, knowing how it all ended." —BBC
"Perhaps everyone has a memoir in them—but only some lives are instant and undeniable blockbusters. Adrienne Brodeur’s is one...Brodeur tells a story so extraordinary, so juicy, and so well that your only option is to buy copies for your friends, too...The miracle of Wild Game is that Brodeur’s writing is as incredible as her story. Brodeur captures the emotional gradations in a tense room as deftly as she establishes the sea salt air and elaborate dinners of her childhood...[Wild Game] will undeniably be the book club pick of 2019." —Refinery29
“Adrienne Brodeur’s breathless memoir starts off with a bang…Every single turn of this memoir is gripping…Brodeur’s descriptions of her mother read like a paramour waxing rhapsodic, the recollections of someone in inescapable thrall…In Wild Game, Brodeur shows us that what defines our lives is choosing just how bound we want to be."” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Brodeur’s memoir has set both Hollywood and publishing ablaze.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Shocking, poignant, unputdownable.” —People Magazine
“It’s the kind of juicy what-is-happening memoir that just begs to be made into a movie.”—Buzzfeed
“An Amazon Best Book of October 2019. An engaging, at times breathless, read that builds in anticipation, even after that bang of a beginning. There is barely a wasted word in the book, and the tensions that develop between various members of the family, good or bad, recognized or not—as well the tensions we feel as readers—keep the narrative humming. It’s difficult to describe what makes one memoir more readable than another. But put this one at the top of your list.” —Amazon Book Review
"As a 14-year-old, Adrienne Brodeur became the confidante for her mother and the possessor of one epic secret: her mother’s affair with her husband’s best friend. It set in motion years of consequences, grief and family struggles retold intimately by Brodeur and layered with detail, excitement and heartbreak throughout years of Cape Cod summers." —Parade
"Juicy and delicious....Wild Game is an honest reckoning of a dishonest time, a loving but critical portrait of a woman who prioritized her own happiness above all else, and an insightful retrospective of the author's complicity in an all-consuming lie....[Brodeur] is a gifted writer, with a particular talent for narrative flow. The story never lets up, and you won't want to put it down."—Bustle
“A fascinating tale about a troubled mother-daughter bond and the effect that decades of lies has on two families.” —NY Post
"Adrienne Brodeur's stunning memoir is the kind of true story that makes you wonder why we'd ever need fiction. It's a beautifully written, totally engrossing story unlike any we've read before—and will surely be one of the most talked-about books of the year." —Town and Country Magazine
“Here is a book you won’t want to put down for anything. Not since The Glass Castle has a memoir managed to convey such a complex family bond, in which love, devotion, and corrosive secrets are inextricably linked. Gorgeous, addictive, unflinching, Wild Game is a must-read.”— J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times best-selling author of Maine and Saints for All Occasions
“As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up. [A] remarkable web of relationships in a privileged, Cape Cod world and the lies a daughter was forced to tell. Riveting.” —Toronto Star
“It’s a rare memoir that reads like a thriller, but Adrienne Brodeur’s Wild Game manages to do just that. Beautifully written and harrowing, the book left me breathless.”— Richard Russo, author of The Destiny Thief and Empire Falls
“Vivid.” —New York Magazine
"I can’t stop thinking about this extraordinary memoir. In the spirit of The Liar’s Club and The Glass Castle, Brodeur takes on the complicated subjects of mother-daughter relationships and family secrets with masterful storytelling and cinematic style. Be forewarned that this book requires the buddy system; you’ll need to discuss it with someone the minute you finish!" —Allison K. Hill, Orange County Register
“Entirely unique and utterly enthralling, Wild Game examines the ardor of a daughter’s love, caught up in the relentless needs of her mother. In this courageous act of radical self-reflection and truth-telling, Brodeur untangles karmic threads that bind families together across the generations.”— Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
“This page turning memoir…reads like heady beach fiction…This layered narrative of deceit, denial, and disillusionment is a surefire bestseller.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Wild Game tells an extraordinary family story, but this riveting memoir will touch all mothers and daughters. Adrienne Brodeur explores with compassionate clarity the intense bonds of love and need that create a family; and the destruction that can ensue. This is a beautiful book.”— Claire Messud, author of The Burning Girl
"Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me works effortlessly to earn my highest compliment for a memoir: It reads like a novel. The story immediately drew me in into [its] magnetic and complicated world." —Psychology Today
“A searing, indelible memoir of an extraordinary mother and her equally extraordinary daughter. Among Adrienne Brodeur’s many achievements in Wild Game—beautiful prose, a riveting story, elegantly told—what I found most moving is the love threaded through every page of this unforgettable book.”— Dani Shapiro, author of Hourglass and Inheritance
"Brodeur’s dramatic story makes for a perfect beach read; the fact that the soap opera is true makes it all the more compelling." —Columbia Magazine
“Adrienne Brodeur has had decades to consider her glamorous, aspiring, and deeply manipulative mother, along with her complex influence on her life. She appears to have used each day to explore and perfectly distill this legacy of sex, lies, and love into a memoir that is intimate, emotionally gripping, exquisitely shaped. Brodeur’s search for honesty is heroic and graceful; her hard-earned understanding animates this quietly shattering book about how lies passed by parents embed themselves into their children’s hearts.”— George Hodgman, New York Times best-selling author of Bettyville
“Brodeur's story explores the bond between mother and daughter and the ripple effect a family secret can have when passed among generations. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal, starred
"A candid, deftly crafted narrative...a vivid chronicle of a daughter's struggle to find herself."—Kirkus
"An absorbing story of secrets, love, and family."—Booklist
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9781328519030, 256pp.
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. What do we learn about the author from how she tells her tale—both what she chooses to tell, and the tone of voice in which she tells it? Is this a story about her mother’s misbehavior, or about something else?
2. Revisit the Mary Oliver poem, “The Uses of Sorrow,” that serves as an epigraph to the book. Do you see the darknesses in your own life as gifts, or would you wish some of them away? Is growth possible without suffering? Consider Margot’s advice to Rennie that happiness is a choice. Is gratitude in the face of life’s difficulties a habit of mind we can choose to cultivate?
3. Malabar makes life more interesting for everyone, including us as readers. Do you feel a little bewitched by her charms? Would she be as compelling without her flaws? Do you admire her? If so, in what ways?
4. How does Malabar upend traditional roles for women, and how does she subscribe to them? How has her mother Vivian’s influence shaped her sense of identity, as well as her relationships with other women? Rennie’s friend Kyra diagnoses Malabar as lonely, and says that loneliness is about not being known for who you are. Does Malabar know herself?
5. Malabar’s marriage to Charles and her romance with Ben occur within a privileged milieu at a time when gender roles were narrowly defined. What are the values of this social set, and how do they do harm to its members? Can the follies of the characters be blamed in part on an unhealthy worldview?
6. Compare Ben’s conduct during the affair to Malabar’s. Whom do you feel more sympathy for? When you look at all the adult characters in the book, is there a villain in this story?
7. Rennie is a victim of harm, a beneficiary of kindness, and an actor—for good and ill—in other people’s lives. Which of these roles does she have the most difficulty acknowledging? Do we learn more about how to live from our parents’ mistakes or from what they do right?
8. “Understandable but not acceptable” becomes Jack and Rennie’s mantra in light of the affair. Where does Rennie demonstrate that she doesn’t accept her mother’s behavior? Do you think she might hold her mother more accountable? Who is helped more by forgiveness: the forgiven or the forgiver?
9. How does Rennie’s involvement in her mother’s deception hurt her relationship with herself? And how does it damage her relationships with other people in her life? By the end of the book, have all the wounded relationships been healed?
10. Rennie manages to separate from her mother, assume ownership of her own life, and chart a new path. What are her strengths, and how do we see her using them first to help her mother, and later, using them as a force for good in her own life? What other resources does she employ to help her become the person she wants to be? Does she inspire you to address aspects of your own life that are holding you back?
11. Rennie has two experiences where time collapses and the layers of her past rush in: just before her wedding and after she gives birth to her daughter (pp. 176, 223). What do these moments do for her? Have you had a similar experience that has granted you a profound glimpse of your life?
12. Throughout the story, secrets are kept—about Christopher, about the affair, about Charles’s aneurism—ostensibly to protect others from pain. Is there anything wrong with this logic? The author says that lying comes with the territory when your parents get divorced, and you don’t share information about one parent if you think it will disturb the other. Do lies of omission pave the way for bigger lies? Is a lie ever completely harmless?
13. Is it fair of Malabar to demand that Rennie never sell the necklace? Which verdict of an appraisal would be worse: for the necklace to be valuable or valueless? Would you do as Rennie does and avoid the question? Is there an heirloom in your family that’s been divisive?
14. The author shows us Cape Cod as a place of beauty, history, and bounty. In what ways does the setting contribute to the meaning of the story?
15. Rennie actively reads to help her clarify and articulate her experience. Margot tells her, “You have no idea how much you can learn about yourself by plunging into someone else’s life (138).” What light does this story shed on your own experience as a parent or a child? Have books helped you make sense of your own life?
Suggested Further Reading:
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Mother Knot: A Memoir by Kathryn Harrison Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
The Plimoth Plantation New England Cookery Book by Malabar Hornblower
The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler