Nonfiction is having a moment in my life. With Nonfiction November over, I’m a bit sad to report I only read one nonfiction book. However, seeing as November was a terribly slow reading month (I only read two books!), I’m happy that I at least read one nonfiction book. I used to read exclusively fiction, warding off nonfiction like it was an evil spirit. Still, I find myself gravitating toward nonfiction more than I ever have, and I wanted to share my thoughts about Wild Game, the memoir I finished over the weekend.
Wild Game is a beautifully written memoir that deals with complex issues surrounding mother-daughter relationships, boundaries, and infidelity. Adrienne Bordeur, the author, chronicles how her mother begins an affair with her stepfather’s best friend, and enlists fourteen-year-old Adrienne, nicknamed Rennie, to help Malabar and Ben, the best friend, have intimate moments alone away from their respective spouses. This memoir is so intriguing and unbelievable I had to remind myself, more than a few times, that it was nonfiction. Malabar, Adrienne’s mother, is a talented chef and beautiful woman who captivates rooms and finds herself in love with her husband’s best friend. The spouse and the best friend sleeping together has become a trope of sorts, a cliché that ruins even the most seemingly solid relationships. Ben and Malabar seem unphased by and even encouraging of Rennie’s involvement in their affair. They both thank her for facilitating their trysts, which only adds to the distaste readers feel as they watch the affair span decades.
What struck me most about this memoir was the depiction of Malabar and Rennie’s relationship. Malabar calls her daughter her best friend and confidant, yet she continually overlooks Rennie’s feelings and, when Rennie begins to question her involvement in the affair, Malabar turns cruel. Malabar seems utterly blind to the boundaries she continually crosses with her young daughter, and equally blind to the repercussions her affair has on her secret keeper. Rennie, eager to have her mother’s approval, is continually complicit in her mother’s affair, as she attempts to make her mother happy while suffering stomach issues that result from her own guilt and anxiety about the situation.
Bordeur skillfully explores her internal battles with her role in the affair, and shines a light on how, now that she has clarity and distance from the situation, Malabar was manipulative and unwilling to put Rennie’s interest ahead of her own. There were several moments where Malabar’s selfishness made me grimace. She often refers to Ben as the most important person in her life, and explains she cannot go on if something happened to him or their relationship… She says this to her daughter. It’s uncomfortable and out of touch. In an interview about the book, Bordeur explained that a sentiment she kept in mind while writing was that you have to show a villain’s loneliness and hero’s faults. She accomplishes this as she explores Malabar’s loneliness, her desire to be seen and understood.
This is a gripping tale and one that keeps readers engaged until the very end. An insightful memoir, this is a must read for anyone who is interested in complex family dynamics, self-exploration, and addressing our own traumas.