A memoir about a charismatic mother who embroiled her daughter in a dramatic affair.
In a candid, deftly crafted narrative, Brodeur (Man Camp, 2005), co-founder of the magazine Zoetrope: All Story, reveals the family secrets that burdened her life from the age of 14, when she became her mother’s confidante and accomplice in a love affair. Her mother was an attractive, charming woman, “a breath of fresh air, an irresistible combination of clever and irreverent,” and the author worshipped her. Although the lover was a close and long-standing family friend and the affair betrayed her kind and beloved stepfather’s trust, Brodeur willingly helped her mother cover her tracks and distract others from noticing the couple’s disappearances, covert touching, and secret glances. For years, she felt thrilled by her role and deeply sympathetic to her mother’s needs for love and sex. After her stepfather had suffered several strokes, her mother felt more like a caretaker than a wife. She confided in her daughter that she needed more—and she needed her daughter’s support. Brodeur was flattered by her mother’s dependence on her, and when she traveled during a gap year, she called home weekly, feeling guilty “for not being more supportive” by phoning more often. Not until she shared her story with a new boyfriend—and later with a woman friend and her future husband (who, bizarrely, was her mother’s lover’s son)—did the author realize that someone outside of the family would see the arrangement far differently. “I felt confused,” she writes, “suddenly thrust into a state of disequilibrium” by listeners who saw her mother “as perpetrator, not victim.” Admitting that her mother’s behavior was abusive made her feel “an unbearable sense of disloyalty.” Her need to separate herself from her mother grew, however; in college, she tried to create a new identity, different from someone “so consumed by her mother that she hardly knew where her mother ended and she began.” That project defined her life for years to come.
A vivid chronicle of a daughter’s struggle to find herself.