Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
WILD GAME by Adrienne Brodeur is a memoir written by a woman who, when she was 14, was drawn into her mother’s love affair with her father’s closest friend. Desperate for the love of this charismatic but utterly self-absorbed mother, our 14-year-old not only becomes her confidante but aids and abets the clandestine meetings of the lovers.
Sound like a soap opera? Given some of the complications, it does read like one – meaning that it has dramatic twists aplenty and is easy to get through. Like any successful soap, it has bad guys. The mom is one, her lover another. Both have spouses who are far nicer than they are. And the author, who grows up through a dozen years of this affair before the whole thing falls apart? Do we like her or not? Do we see her as victim or villain? Is it our job to judge?
These are the questions WILD GAME inspires. Memoir is, by definition, less reality-based than autobiography, so what we’re reading is the author’s emotional side of a personally emotional story. Does she articulate remorse for her own involvement in her mother’s affair? Not enough for me.
She does wrap things up by implicating that she will not be repeating her mother’s mistakes. Do I believe her? After the pages and pages she spends, almost gleefully detailing her mother’s love affair, this self-absolution gets short shrift. Nor do I feel she quite gets the injustice she does to her own perfectly lovely first husband because of the whole mess with her mother.
So why did she write this book? Why does any memoirist write? Catharsis? Self-defense? Forgiveness? Money?
In the author’s notes at the end, she says that she changed the names of everyone in the book except for herself, her mother, and her mother’s lover. Then she goes on to reveal the names of many of the people involved anyway. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
But then, judgmental person that I am, I’m not sure what her purpose is at all.