When she was 14, Adrienne Brodeur’s mother began having an affair with Ben, her husband’s best friend. While some teenagers might not learn about their parent’s infidelities for years, if ever, Ms. Brodeur was in on it from the get-go, not only aware of what was going on under her stepfather’s nose, but actually helping her mom to sneak out of the house and providing an alibi as the romance continued while Ms. Brodeur was in high school, college and beyond.
The tangled web of lies and their consequences, along with Ms. Brodeur’s examination of her complicated feelings about her actions, make for compelling reading in “Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover And Me,” published last month by Houghton Mifflin.
That the story is true makes it hard to put down, and that much of the action takes place in Ms. Brodeur’s summer home in Orleans makes the story feel both outlandish and familiar. Also close to home, Ms. Brodeur’s stepfather is credited as being the founder of Plimoth Plantation, and his best friend Ben is a direct descendant of Mayflower passenger William Brewster.
Ms. Brodeur’s reaction to her mother’s affair, her willingness to help if it meant feeling closer to a mother who’d always been distant, is what makes the book relatable. Though I’m guessing most of us don’t have a parent who carried on a decade-long affair with a married man, lots of us might feel we have a family member we wish we were closer with.
In an attempt to conceive of a way to spend more time together, Ms. Brodeur’s mother, a gourmet chef and the author of a food column in the Boston Globe, and her lover, a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman, hatch a plan to collaborate on a cookbook whose name, a double entendre, serves as the title of the book.
The book follows Ms. Brodeur from age 14 almost to the present and deals with how the affair affects Ms. Brodeur’s mother and stepfather, Ben’s marriage, Ms. Brodeur’s relationship with her brother and even her own subsequent marriages. It’s up to readers to decide how they feel about the actions of the grownups in the story as well as Ms. Brodeur’s role in the drama, a role that had her not only making up excuses for her mother’s indiscretions but even coming up with a plan to foil a blackmail attempt by an opportunistic housekeeper.
While some express their staunch disapproval of the affair, Ms. Brodeur, at different times in the book, defends her mother’s actions, even when her mother repeatedly turns on her. Learning to forgive and to accept the limitations of others is one of the book’s themes.
Whichever side of the moral fence you fall on, no doubt everyone will agree that “Wild Game” is a fast and furious read with plenty to digest.
Ms. Brodeur, who still has a home on the Cape as well as family in Falmouth, will be at the Sandwich Public Library Tuesday, November 12, at 6:30 PM for a talk sponsored by Titcomb’s Bookshop, and at the Falmouth Public Library Wednesday, November 13, at 7 PM for a talk sponsored by Eight Cousins Books.
Both events are free and open to the public. Registration is requested for both events. For the November 12 event in Sandwich, register through the Titcomb’s website. For the November 13 event, call the Falmouth Public Library at 508-457-2555, extension 7; stop by the reference desk and register in person; or register at www.falmouthpubliclibrary.org.