Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

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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.

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  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328519030

  • ISBN-10: 1328519031

  • Pages: 256

  • Price: $27.00

  • Publication Date: 10/15/2019

  • Carton Quantity: 12

Adrienne Brodeur

Adrienne Brodeur

ADRIENNE BRODEUR began her career in publishing as the co-founder, along with filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, of the fiction magazine Zoetrope: All-Story, which won the National Magazine Award for Best Fiction three times and launched the careers of many writers. She was a book editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for many years and, currently, she is the Executive Director of Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute. She has published essays in the New York Times. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and children.
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  • reviews

    A National Bestseller 


    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...

  • excerpts
    Ben Souther pushed through the front door of our Cape Cod beach house on a hot July evening in 1980, greeting our family with his customary, enthusiastic “How do!” In his early sixties at the time, Ben had a full head of thick, white hair and callused hands that broadcast his love of outdoor work. I watched from the hallway as he back-patted my stepfather, Charles Greenwood, with one hand and, with the other, raised high a brown paper grocery bag, its corners softening into damp, dark patches. 


    “Let’s see what you can do with these, Malabar,” Ben said to my mother, who stood in the entryway beside her husband. He presented her with the seeping package and gave her a peck on the cheek. 


    My mother took the sack into the kitchen and placed it on the butcher-block counter, where she unfolded the top and peeked inside. 


    “Squab,” Ben said proudly, rubbing his hands together. “A dozen. Plucked, cleaned, I even took off the heads for you.” 


    Ah. So the wetness was blood. 


    I glanced at my mother, whose face registered not a trace of revulsion, only delight. She was, no doubt, already doing the math, calculating the temperature and time required to crisp the skin without drying the meat and best coax forward the flavors. My mother came to life in the kitchen—it was her stage and she was the star. 


    “Well, I must say, this is quite the hostess gift, Ben,” my mother said, laughing, appraising him with a tilt of her chin. She gave him a long look. Malabar was a tough critic. You had to earn her good opinion, a process that could take years and might not happen at all. Ben Souther, I could tell, had gone up a notch. 


    Ben’s wife, Lily, followed close behind, bearing a bouquet of flowers from their garden in Plymouth and a bag of wild watercress, freshly picked from the banks of their stream, peppery the way Malabar loved it. About a decade older than my mother, Lily was petite and plain-pretty, with graying brown hair and a lined face that spoke of her New England practicality and utter lack of vanity. 


    Charles stood on the sidelines smiling broadly. He loved company, delicious meals, and stories from the past, and this weekend with his old friend Ben and Ben’s wife, Lily, promised an abundance of all. I’d known the Southers since I was eight, when my mother married Charles. I knew them in the way that a child knows her parents’ friends, which is to say not well and with indifference. 


    I was fourteen. 



    The cocktail hour, a sacred ritual in our home, commenced immediately. My mother and Charles each started with their usual, a tumbler of bourbon on the rocks, had a second, and then progressed to their favorite aperitif, which they called the “power pack”: a dry Manhattan with a twist. The Southers followed my parents’ lead, matching them drink for drink. The four of them meandered and chatted, cocktails in hand, from the living room out to the deck and then, later, across the lawn to the wooden stairs that led down to the beach. There they enjoyed the coastal abundance before them: brackish air, a sky glowing pink with sunset, the ambient sounds of seagulls, boats on moorings, and distant waves. 


    My older brother, Peter, made his entrance after a long day’s work as a mate on a charter fishing boat out of Wellfleet. He was sixteen, blond, and tan, his lips split from too much salt and sun. He and Ben talked striped bass—what they were eating (sand eels), where they were biting (past the bars but still close to shore). It was understood between them that this type of sport fishing, with its lowbrow chumming and high-test fishing line, was not the real deal. Ben was a fisherman’s fisherman. He tied his own flies and made annual trips to Iceland and Russia to fish the world’s most pristine rivers. He had already caught and released over seven hundred salmon in his lifetime, and his goal was to make it to a thousand. Still, a day on the water was a day on the water, even if it was spent with beer-guzzling tourists. 


    “When’s dinner, Mom?” Peter asked. My brother was endlessly ravenous, always impatient. 


    That was all it took to get everyone back into the house. We knew what was coming next. 


    My mother flicked on the kitchen lights, rinsed her hands, and busied herself unwrapping the headless birds, lining them up on the countertop, and blotting their cavities dry with a fresh dishtowel. The rest of us settled onto the sturdy, high-backed stools, our elbows on the green marble counter, where we could enjoy a clear view of Malabar in action.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328519030

  • ISBN-10: 1328519031

  • Pages: 256

  • Price: $27.00

  • Publication Date: 10/15/2019

  • Carton Quantity: 12

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