Disclaimer: The publisher sent me an ARC.
Brodeur writers in her preface that “a buried truth, that’s all a lie really is”.
The sentence could be used to describe more than a lie but also family relationships. All families have secrets and all families are unhappy in entirely different ways, and despite how Tolstoy started that saying, I will even say all happy families are so in different ways – in fact, you can be a happy and unhappy family at the same time.
For instance, if you could travel back in time and ask half a dozen people at that point in their lives, if their family was happy, then they might answer yes. But ask them as adults, and they might say no.
It is easy reading Brodeur’s memoir about her mother and her mother’s affair to groan in despair as Brodeur’s mother Malabar confides in her daughter and uses her daughter to conduct an illicit affair. Yet, many of us become our parents’ confidents whether we want to be or not. We learn about their sex lives or lack of one, perhaps what they said in marriage counseling. In this way, our parents use us as friends and weapons.
So, while Brodeur’s story may be different than most, it is still a memoir that reflects a very common occurrence and is honest about it.
At first glance, the memoir might simply be about the affair and Brodeur’s role in it, but what the story really unfolds is the struggle that happens when we separate ourselves from parents whom we love but whose love isn’t necessary healthily or even really love. The memoir is about overcoming the intergenerational hurt that secrets and emotional withdraw can cause.
In part this focus around the necklace that Malabar owns, that originally was her mother’s, given to her by her husband as part peace offering, part sorry, part bribe. It is unknown fi the necklace is what it is supposed to be – an artwork of gems. The necklace is beautiful, but its story shifts in the novel. As does Malabar’s stories about the affair that she tells Brodeur.
Malabar’s back story gives some reason and context to her behavior, but also does not excuse her behavior. In the pages, the reader can feel Brodeur trying to make sense of her mother. Brodeur’s writing is gripping and the memoir speeds along at a good clip. There is no dragging or self-pity or unnecessary detail. At no point do we stop and scream at Brodeur but instead celebrate her success in living her own life.
In telling about her healing and moving forward Brodeur gives hope and comfort to those of us still coming to terms with the damage and pain caused by parents who while loved put their own happiness first or are not as parents should be.