Author Adrienne Brodeur On Her New Memoir 'Wild Game' NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with Adrienne Brodeur about her memoir, Wild Game, that recounts the complicated relationship with her mother, who had an affair and enlisted her help in concealing it.
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Author Adrienne Brodeur On Her New Memoir 'Wild Game'

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Author Adrienne Brodeur On Her New Memoir 'Wild Game'

Author Adrienne Brodeur On Her New Memoir 'Wild Game'

Author Adrienne Brodeur On Her New Memoir 'Wild Game'

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NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with Adrienne Brodeur about her memoir, Wild Game, that recounts the complicated relationship with her mother, who had an affair and enlisted her help in concealing it.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Deception takes commitment, vigilance and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it. Adrienne Brodeur writes those lines in the opening pages of her new memoir, a memoir in which she notes for years, her job was to pile on sand - fistfuls, shovelfuls, bucketfuls (ph) - in an effort to keep her mother's secret buried. The book is titled "Wild Game," and Adrienne Brodeur joins us now.

Welcome.

ADRIENNE BRODEUR: Thank you for having me.

KELLY: So your mother's secret - I want you to tell me how it started. You were 14. It was July. It was late at night. And your mother slipped into your bedroom.

BRODEUR: That's exactly right. The year was 1980. And I was sound asleep, and my mother came in, and she tried to wake me up. And what I remember is not wanting to be aroused, but then she said Ben Souther just kissed me.

KELLY: Ben Souther there was not your mother's husband.

BRODEUR: No, Ben Souther was my mother's husband's best friend, and Ben Souther was married. And of course, my mother was married. And what I did realize, even in real time, was that the ground had shifted. I had gone to bed my mother's daughter, and I had woken up as her closest confidante and best friend.

KELLY: Your mother - her name's Malabar - would you describe her, what she was like?

BRODEUR: So my mother was in her late 40s at the time. She was incredibly beautiful and charismatic, and she also was just a force of nature, nowhere more so than in the kitchen. She was amazingly talented. She'd studied at Le Cordon Bleu. There was always a dinner party going on where she was making something just fabulous.

KELLY: That kiss that she woke you up to tell you about led to another kiss and then to much more into the years of passion that you describe. You were enlisted as confidante, also as watchdog. It was your job to make sure that nobody found out.

BRODEUR: My job in part, for sure. In a way, I could enable the affair as very few other people could because I was this innocent-looking teenager, so when the Southers would come over and they would have these elaborate dinners, I would always suggest, does anyone want to go for a walk? And because both my mother's spouse and Ben Souther's spouse were of frail health, they would always demure, and we knew they would. And the three of us would slip out together, and it looked incredibly innocent. And then we would sort of walk up the road, and they would turn off. There was a guest house on the property. And I would wait for them while they, you know, visited together.

KELLY: Did you like all of these people, including your stepfather and the woman who was Ben's wife?

BRODEUR: I loved all of these people. And of course, you know, that's when it gets more serious as I get older and realize what a critical part I played in their deception and the shame and guilt I started to feel about it.

KELLY: Your mom had a necklace, which she - she saw it as priceless, the most precious thing she would ever own. She'd inherited it from her mother. And your whole life, it was dangled in front of you with this promise. Be a good girl. One day, this will be yours. It felt, reading it, like this was your mother's love embodied in these sparkling diamonds. And she would give it to you, and then she would snatch it back, and then it was yours again.

BRODEUR: Yes. The necklace had almost a mythic power over my mother. It was a gift that she witnessed her father presenting to her mother as a very young girl - probably 7 or 8 - when he was proposing for the second time. So I think it took on this incredibly romantic, idealized, you know - I can't even explain what the necklace became. But she wasn't able to give it away easily, so it was - there were the various points along the way that she'd say, hey, you know, when you graduate from college, when you get married, when this and that and the other thing, and they didn't happen.

KELLY: No. In fact, there's a stunning scene where you're about to get married, and she brings out the necklace. And you think - were you thinking she was going to give it to you to wear on your wedding day and it turns out it's all about her outfit and what she's going to wear?

BRODEUR: I absolutely understood that I was going to wear that. In fact, I bought a dress that had this off-the-shoulder to put on this ruby, diamond-laden, gorgeous collar of a necklace. When I came home and was starting to show my mother my dress, she was starting to show me her dress, which she hadn't yet had made. But she had bought this incredible silk, and she had these patterns, and she was showing me all of this. And then she held the necklace up to her, and she said this will be the piece de resistance. And that was the moment that I realized that this necklace, which had been opened on her bed, which I thought she was leading me into the room to say, finally, now it's yours, she was going to end up wearing it.

KELLY: Did you ever end up wearing it? Do you wear it today?

BRODEUR: I have never worn the necklace. First of all, you know - (laughter) - simply put, I am not a person who could pull off that necklace.

KELLY: (Laughter).

BRODEUR: It was certain old style, glamour...

KELLY: I'm picturing Liz Taylor with it, yeah.

BRODEUR: Yes, exactly. And that is who Malabar was. I mean, she could wear that necklace and stop traffic. But also, I mean, honestly, the truth is it has a lot of bad karma.

KELLY: Where is Malabar, your mother, now?

BRODEUR: My mother's on Cape Cod. And she is in very poor health right now, so I feel very lucky that four or five years ago when I was embarking on this, she was supportive and actually provided me a lot of access. But she's very ill, and she will not be able to read this book.

KELLY: I'm sorry to hear that.

BRODEUR: Thank you.

KELLY: Did your mother ever apologize, either about the necklace - I mean, bigger picture - about the whole affair and enlisting you to enable it?

BRODEUR: I wouldn't say that she ever apologized in a way that I felt was a true and real apology. I mean, I think on some level, I don't think my mother felt like what she did was terribly wrong. That period of our life was relatively happy. It led to this terribly complicated period of depression and figuring things out for me. And I just - I don't think she could quite take in what she had done. That said, writing this book, you know, one of the surprising parts of it was the empathy I felt for her and, honestly, the forgiveness. And not - I never chose to forgive her to sort of cover up her transgressions, but more - it's empowering. It's a way to move beyond that part of our relationship.

KELLY: If I may ask, have you forgiven yourself? Because there's a lot of guilt that comes across on these pages.

BRODEUR: (Laughter) That took a lot longer. But yes, I have. I have. Thank you.

KELLY: Well, congratulations on the book. And it's been a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you.

BRODEUR: Thank you so much.

KELLY: That's Adrienne Brodeur talking about her new memoir "Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, And Me."

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