About the Book:
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.
“Don’t ever forget that you and I are two halves of one whole.”
This story is beautiful and tragic and hopeful and all the things! I applaud the author for writing her story with such tenderness and grace. What could have been a salacious and angry retelling instead is a remarkably compelling and satisfying tale.
The author grew up in Boston and Cape Cod, the daughter of a brilliant and talented mother who was a well-known cook. Her cooking and food play a central role in this book, as the author describes her mother’s recipes with beautiful detail. Malabar was a food writer and her kitchen was the center of the family.
Married to an older man, Malabar enters into an affair with her husband’s friend Ben, who was married to Lily at the time. The two couples were also very close friends. Malabar enlists the help of her daughter, the author, to hide the affair, and Adrienne (Rennie) spends many years hiding evidence of her mother and Ben’s affair.
What kind of mother does this to her own teenage daughter? I was surprised with the way in which the author handles her own memories and her mother’s behavior. This is not an angry book, but instead is at times a painfully beautiful account of the author’s struggles with coming to terms with this betrayal by her own mother.
“We all know the adage that one lie begets the next. Deception takes commitment, vigilance, and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it.”
For years the author did everything to protect her mother and her mother’s secret. This takes vigilance and hard work and Rennie’s own early life and relationships suffered. All of this just to make her mother happy. As I read this extraordinary story, it became clear to me that Malabar was a narcissist but yet the author does indeed have many happy memories of her childhood and apparently still maintains a relationship with her mother (who now has dementia.) This is an absolutely fascinating story of complex family relationships, the danger of keeping secrets and how our parents shape our lives.
The role of protector was thrust on the author at an early and tender age. I loved how she has overcome her past, and forged her own healthy relationships and come out stronger. Once I started this fascinating book, I could not put it down.
“… I didn’t have a moral compass. It would be years before I understood the forces that shaped who she was and who I became and recognized the hurt that we both caused. What I knew then was that nothing made me feel more loved than making my mother happy, and any means justified that end. Starting when I was fourteen, what made my mother happy was Ben Souther.”
The title of the book refers to the name of a cookbook that Malabar and Ben planned to write together. It was also a ruse under which the two coulees could spend time together without raising suspicions. Eventually the affair ends up having explosive consequences but even this is handled deftly by the author. Even if you are not a fan of non-fiction, I highly recommend this stunning story. You won’t ever forget it!
(I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
About the Author:
Adrienne Brodeur has spent the past two decades of her professional life in the literary world—discovering voices, cultivating talent, and working to amplify underrepresented writers. Her forthcoming memoir, Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me, will be published by HMH books in October 2019. The film rights were bought by Chernin Entertainment with Kelly Fremon Craig, the director of Edge of Seventeen, attached to adapt and direct.
Adrienne’s publishing career began with founding the fiction magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story, with filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, where she served as editor in chief from 1996-2002. The magazine has won the prestigious National Magazine Award for best fiction four times. In 2005, she became an editor at Harcourt (later, HMH Books), where she acquired and edited literary fiction and memoir. Adrienne left publishing in 2013 to become Creative Director — and later Executive Director — of Aspen Words, a literary arts nonprofit and program of the Aspen Institute. In 2017, she launched the Aspen Words Literary Prize, a $35,000 annual award for an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.
Adrienne splits her time between Cambridge and Cape Cod, where she lives with her husband and children.