“This electrifying, gorgeously written memoir will hold you captive until the last word.” —People
NAMED A BEST FALL BOOK BY 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
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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About the Author
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.
Read an Excerpt
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.