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You know when you realize your parents aren't superheroes but real, flawed people? This is a lot like that.
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.
A buried truth, that’s all a lie really is.
Cape Cod is a place where buried things surface and disappear again: wooden lobster pots, the vertebrae of humpback whales, chunks of frosted sea glass. One day there’s nothing; the next, the cyclical forces of nature—erosion, wind, and tide—unearth something that has been there all along. A day later, it’s gone.
A few years ago, my brother discovered the bow of a shipwreck looming from a sandbar. He managed to excavate an ample wedge of hull before the tide came in and thwarted his efforts. The following day, he returned to the same spot at the same tide, but all traces of the ship had vanished. Had he not saved that waterlogged slab of wood, knotted and beautifully gnarled, and left it to dry on his lawn, he might have imagined he’d dreamed the whole thing.
Blink, and you’ll miss your treasure.
Blink again, and you’ll realize that the truth you thought was safely hidden has materialized, some ungainly part of it revealed under new conditions. 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 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.
I’m not a big nonfiction reader, but I devoured Wild Game (pun intended). As a mother of three kids, I’m acutely aware of the role I have in their life and appreciate the sacred gift to usher them into adulthood. Maybe that explains my shock and utter dismay over this true story of the author Adrienne’s relationship with her mother, Malabar. The ways in which Malabar repeatedly crossed lines that should never be crossed was unconscionable.
In Wild Game, Malabar pursues an affair with her disabled husband’s best friend, using her daughter, Adrienne, as a distraction, confidante, and accomplice to keep her relationship a secret and ensure its success. Adrienne’s desire to protect her mother—a deeply flawed but undeniably magnetic woman—and her blindness to the inappropriateness of her mother’s actions is heart-wrenching. I was dumbfounded at the manipulation and selfishness of Adrienne’s mother.
Wild Game is sure to be one of 2019’s must-read memoirs, and fans of The Glass Castle and Educated will love that it is similarly compulsively readable. I read it in 24 hours and am still thinking about it weeks later. Adrienne’s mother is as enigmatic as she is selfish—how could anyone act like this? You’ll be talking about just that with friends, strangers—anyone who will listen—for a long time.
I love memoirs. It’s amazing and heartbreaking to get glimpses into others’ lives, and this book didn’t disappoint. There’s a strong theme of finding and owning your own identity. Loved it, recommend.
Don’t know if “loved” is the right word for how I felt about this book, but it was definitely a ride that I had a hard time putting down. If you love books about complicated families, this is for you!
New Braunfels, TX
If you have trauma from your parents or if they’ve ever let their narcissistic personalities rule you, this will strike home for you, and hard. A story of healing a heartbreak that you shouldn’t have.
This whole book feels like you’re sitting at a coffee shop, with a coworker you have recently befriended as she spills her whole dramatic life story to you. The story that you don’t ever want to end.
I was immediately intrigued by Adrienne’s relationship with her mom. Reading about how her mother’s choices impacted her life throughout not only her childhood, but throughout adulthood was amazing.