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Read With Us: Wild Game Discussion Time

Today’s the day that Bonny and Kym and I are offering discussion on our summer Read With Us book selection, Wild Game. We are each sharing a question (or two) on our blogs and are hoping you will visit them all and share your thoughts.

My question is this:

What was Wild Game’s impact on you as a reader? Does the author’s story make you think about your own life or experiences differently?

For me, the biggest impact the book had on me was to remind me of my own relationship with my mother. And to illustrated that our relationship shaped so much of who I am as an adult, in both good and bad ways.

As I mentioned when I teased about this book, there was a lot of the author’s story I could relate to. Not in specific terms, my mother never had an affair to my knowledge (although there was a family friend that she was very close to and I always sort of wondered if there was something going on there) but, like Malabar, she was very charismatic and loved to entertain. She could also be very manipulative and often treated me more as a confidant than as a daughter. This wasn’t the case when I was a little girl but by the time I hit junior high things were different. She was drinking a lot. She was in an unhappy marriage and there was a lot of fighting and conflict in my home. I was expected to deal with a lot of adult things at a pretty young age. Some of that, like in the case of Adrienne Brodeur, was overwhelming and scary and put a lot of stress on me. And some of that, also like for Brodeur, made me grow up quickly and become self-reliant and independent.

It’s hard to be the daughter of someone who is self-absorbed and manipulative and the life of every party. It’s hard to fight for your own needs and stand up for yourself as a person; it’s even harder to expose your mother’s behavior to those who simply see her as fun-loving and a great cook. I applaud Ms. Brodeur for her bravery and honesty and I admire how she has finally come to terms with this relationship.

Now it’s your turn to answer my questions. I look forward to reading what you have to say. And! Bonus! We have a prize package again this time, every comment you leave on our blogs today gives you a chance to win.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. I think every daughter has a difficult relationship with her mother at some point, and I know I certainly did, but reading this book made me realize just how lucky I was. My conflicts with my mother were mainly because we were so much alike. There was never any doubt in my house who was the child and who was the parent. So reading this book made me appreciate what I had even more, even though at the time I would have complained loudly to anyone who would listen. Perspective is a great thing!

  2. I’m with Sarah. My upbringing was so very different (in pretty much every way) that I found little to relate to personally in the book. In my processing, though, I was really struck with the universality of separation — children from their parents, parents from their children. It is no easy feat to separate and become . . . your own Self (or to allow your children to do that). So many people I know struggle with the aftermath of “separating” from their parents (or their children) all their lives!

    So. This book wasn’t relatable to me from a situational standpoint, but I certainly could relate to the difficulties in carving out a life independent from parents/children. I’m impressed that Adrienne Brodeur was able to untangle her messy boundaries with her mother!

    This was not my usual type of “read,” but I really enjoyed the book. I think Adrienne Brodeur wrote a compelling, fascinating memoir. (One that made me appreciate the stability and secure parent/child boundaries of my own family!)

    1. Kym, your comment really made sense to me. Separation is the goal of parenting; we support our children when they are young and need our help and supervision, but the goal is always to get them to understand themselves as individuals who are responsible for themselves. And I think that was one of the main failings of Malabar in raising Adrienne.

  3. Like Sarah and Kym, my upbringing was so different. I had a difficult time relating to this book (I kept wanting to shake people and say either “wake up” or “grow up”) and did not really enjoy it at all. I’m surprised I finished it!

    P.S. I already won a surprise package from you lovely ladies, so please don’t include me in the mix!

  4. I grew up in a family where my parents let us know, from an early age, their goal was to raise the four of us as independent adults. There were frequent references to skills we would need as adults, from gardening to cooking and household repair. We had a wonderful upbringing, and although our parents rarely socialized outside our extended family, our separations were fairly easy.

    I was interested in reading this book with a different perspective, but it was not a book I enjoyed. I was frustrated by the behavior of most of the adults in the book. I, also, am thankful for the security and boundaries in my own family.

  5. I couldn’t relate to many of the circumstances in this book, we certainly weren’t as wealthy or priviledged.
    In my family there was a distinction between children and adults. My siblings and cousins still reminisce about family meals where it was “kids in the kitchen” and how much fun we had. We were not allowed to listen in on adult conversation and we had no desire to.
    What I could relate to is the issues related to separation and becoming one’s own self; I think that is something we all struggle with in some manner.
    Overall, I found the book both fascinating and frustrating. I was fascinated with their lifestyle and frustrated that with all of their wealth and privilege the adults were never quite satisfied with things and couldn’t see much beyond their own needs to the point of using their children to meet those needs.

  6. Initially, I didn’t think Wild Games had much of an impact on me as a reader, given my stable childhood upbringing with plenty (too many?) rules and boundaries. But the more I thought about it, the more I recognized the value I gained in reading it. It showed me that I should not assume that everyone had the same kind of childhood that I did, and also made me grateful for the stability my parents gave me. I had some difficulty in breaking away from my mother because she was very controlling, but that just produced the usual mother-daughter conflicts and certainly nothing like Adrienne Brodeur experienced. That separation can be difficult and I’m impressed that the author was able to manage it to become a better mother herself.

  7. I had to think hard about what impact this book had on me, the reader. Unfortunately, the behavior of Adrienne’s mother did not surprise me but did sadden me. As a teacher I was exposed to a wide variety of parental relationships with their children. Most were wonderful but some made me shake my head. Over the years I learned to not judge until I had listened carefully to the clues as to why some of these relationships did not foster a relationship I had between my parents. Doing so did help me understand but frustrated me that I did not have the tools to help. I must quality this by saying none of these relationships involved reportable abuse.
    Adrienne’s struggle to separate from her mother was difficult to read about. I believe we all struggle with separation in some way as we grow up but for myself and hopefully my daughters not so painful.

  8. This book was so far out of any experience I had and that made it hard to relate to the story. In my mind this was the stuff of fiction, although I can understand why Adrienne’s story felt so real to you. Like Adrienne you have been able to work at overcoming the pain of growing with the disfunction in your family. I admire you for sharing your story.

  9. I enjoyed reading this book even though it was hard to believe that a mother would do that to her child. I had to keep reminding myself that it actually was a memoir and not a work of fiction. The fact that it was set on the Cape certainly added to my interest. Like Adrienne, my parents got divorced, and my mother remarried before I turned 3. Our family was also very dysfunctional, so it was easy to relate to that part of the story. My heart went out to Adrienne as she hungered for her mother’s attention, as I too remember feeling this way growing up. I just wanted to be noticed and feel loved by my mother, but instead I felt like a burden and that I must have been the cause of my parents’ divorce. I realized as a young adult, that they were just not compatible, but I grew up believing it was my fault as I was treated differently than any of my siblings. Fortunately I’ve had healing, but how we are raised certainly has an impact on who we are and the decisions we make. I’ve always tried to make sure that my children (now adults) would always know that I love them. Having compassion for others may also be a direct result of my childhood neglect.

  10. I was introduced to this book via a podcast before it came out. I immediately knew I had to read it, the author and I had more in common than I wish we did. While my mother is definitely self-centered and has narcissistic tendencies, she is maybe not as obvious as Adrienne’s mother. She does have a talent for making everything about her, that is for sure.
    As a child I was a witness to her inappropriate relationships and even though she very likely thought I was too young to know what was actually going on, I sensed it all. I’m sure I was taken along on the car rides as a ruse. I mean, who would take their kid along to meet up with her boyfriend? My mom. While I wasn’t a witness to anything more than conversations, I still understood that there was something happening that shouldn’t have been. Unfortunately for me as a child, I was extremely aware of the temperature of the room and of my parents emotions. They were both self involved for whatever their reasons and their emotional warfare was internalized by me. This empathic ability is something I have had to learn to protect myself from since childhood, it can be, and was, emotionally exhausting for me. Had my parents been observant they might have seen what absorbing and then attempting to mediate their emotions in our family was doing to me.
    Another thing that I really connected to was the cooking. My mother had those cookbooks, the Time/Life Recipes of the World (or whatever they were called). We were not as wealthy as this family, but my mother had grown up in poverty and she took on the culinary arts with a passion. I mean, who can ask for paella as her birthday dinner at the age of 8? You know how you think when you are little that everyone is pretty much the same because you only have your experience to draw on? I had no idea that people didn’t eat gourmet food regularly. Or food from cultures around the world as a normal thing. My mother made hotdogs special. The woman is an amazing cook and knowing that Adrienne’s mother was one of the author/editors of the books that my mom had open on our counter nearly every night made me feel even more connected to her story.

  11. The book as a whole annoyed me. Malabar was just so self absorbed and didn’t care about her husband, daughter, lover’s wife. It was all about her. I think I also forgot it was a memoir and I had hoped in parts that her mother would have been found out and had to be subject to some public shaming. She really didn’t care about anyone else. That was the way I read it anyway. It was a quick read and I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was just a work of fiction.

  12. I think I mentioned this before but my own mother was nothing like this mother. She was charming and charismatic but not at all self-absorbed. She was one of those people who knew everyone’s name and made you feel seen and important. Most of my girlfriends had very odd relationships with their mothers and always wanted to be around my mom. Reading this book makes me wonder about those relationships now. One thing I learned from my mom is that she was my mother, not my girlfriend, and I had to learn how to make my own decisions. She gently guided me but didn’t try to live through my experiences.

  13. I knew right away that I’d relate a bit more to some elements of this story than I might wish. The actual story wasn’t really like anything I’d experienced, and I’m thankful for that! It just seemed unreal that a woman would put her teenage daughter in such a position… and I never had the sense that it was in a “girlfriend” kind of way.

    My mother was also charismatic, manipulative and narcissistic; she was also very beautiful and worked extremely hard at keeping her beauty and youthful appearance. She was only 20 years when I was born, the eldest of five children born within a 6-year period. I never wanted my boyfriends to meet her, and I wish I had a nickel for every time we were mistaken for sisters.

    I was not a confidante, but when my parents divorced when I was 12, I was aware that my mom had had a recent affair with “Charles,” and that my dad had been sleeping around for years. I wouldn’t have expressed it that way, but it was a sense… my mother’s “affair” was more meaningful but my dad’s encounters were insignificant, and numerous, and it was an ongoing thing from before they were married until long after. Even though my siblings were barely aware of the circumstances, it was undeniable that our household was in turmoil, sometimes with the whole family awake for another 3 a.m. fight… sometimes earlier in the day and witnessed by the neighborhood kids. Ugh.

    I don’t think I had a single friend whose parents were divorced, but I always felt lucky. It was super-hard for my mom and we all suffered in various ways — there was turmoil in other ways, and the hate was insufferable — but my life vastly improved in many important ways. I’m not sure “growing up fast” was one of them, but for better or worse, and given my position, I became the “second mother” while my mom went back to school to get her nursing degree. I’d always wanted to be a mom, so I embraced that role, much to the chagrin of my sisters & brother! And later in life, my mom sometimes looked to me as a maternal figure… I truly believe that she suffered PTSD, compounded by bouts of depression, from her life with my dad. I never fully embraced that role, but I would allow her to lean on me from time to time. She was so tired…

    Ah, anyway. This book. And all your questions. Prying open some cans of worms that I haven’t bothered with in a while, I feel like I could go on forever. The story was so “out there” but I think the author did an amazing job of telling (and overcoming) her story.

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