Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me by Adrienne Brodeur

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

“Deception takes commitment, vigilance, and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it. For years and years, my job was to pile on sand – fistfuls, shovelfuls, bucketfuls, whatever the moment necessitated – in an effort to keep my mother’s secret buried.”

On a hot summer night when the author was 14, her mother (Malabar) woke her up to inform her that her husband’s best friend had just kissed her. She wasn’t sad about the fact, she was happy and giddy and demanded happiness from her daughter too. From that summer onwards, Brodeur became a very willing participant to her mother’s lies, betrayal and affair that spanned more than a decade, orchestrating avenues for her mother to cheat on her husband with his best friend.

In Wild Game, Brodeur reflects upon the very disjointed and convoluted relationship with her mother, Malabar. Our mothers leave an indelible mark on us including fingerprints of their own shortcomings and it’s left to us to either break the chain or continue in the cycle.

“I knew only what pleased my mother; I didn’t have a moral compass. It would be years before I understood the forces that shaped who she was and who I became and recognized the hurt that we both caused.”

I found this book to be an easy and short read. It is less than 300 pages and reads like fiction. I found the relationship between the author and her mother very compelling. Brodeur’s personal life suffers enormously because she spends most of her young life lying for her mother and to everyone around her who cared about her. Her mother would confide in her the most disturbing details of her affair and I just found that a fascinating thing for an adult woman to do to a girl who was barely a teenager. I also found this detail indicting of every adult who knew Brodeur. They basically played a huge part in her mother’s affairs and never called it out for how inappropriate it was.

“Don’t ever forget that you and I are two halves of one whole.”

I found Malabar fascinating. I was not wooed by her charm though and found it confusing that anyone would ever find her charming, I just thought she was very manipulative. It was obvious that she loved nobody but herself and put her own needs above everyone else’s. She was a classic narcissistic person. She dangled her love as a prize her daughter would win for helping her lie her way through life. It was also surprising to me how long her daughter put up with her antics. At 14, I felt sympathy for her but at 26? I was simply over it.

“‘Tell me what it’s like,’ I said, even though we’d had this conversation before and I’d witnessed firsthand how the volatile forces of passion and infidelity had give my mother exuberance. I just loved to hear her talk about it.” 

Ultimately, I felt very detached reading this book. Even though I was appalled at the level of involvement this 14 year old had in this affair and the unfairness of it all, it just felt like I was watching a soap opera. I did not feel an emotional connection to this book at all. I found it all very shallow. Summers in Cape Cod, living in mansions, private schools, Ivy league schools. I felt like I was reading about the life of the rich and the famous. Everything ultimately came off as shallow. I just didn’t consider this to be a memorable memoir, I think you need more than a messed up rich and published mother to create one. I gave this book a 3 star rating on good reads.

 

Leggy

 

Memoirs

Book Review: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

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I heard so much about this book and for no good reason at all, I just had no desire to read it, so I stayed away from it. Sometime, late last year I was looking for an audiobook to listen to and it was available in my library so I decided to go for it. Born A Crime is an autobiography of sorts that focuses on Noah’s childhood in South Africa. The title, Born A Crime is because being born in the times of apartheid where having a black mom and a white dad was illegal, he literally was the product of a crime.

The book is written as a collection of essays and Noah talks about his childhood in depth right from the moment his mother made a decision to get pregnant with him. He talks about how mischievous he was as a child, how his mother – who is really the heroine of the book – did so much to protect and raise her child to be his own person in the most unconventional way, how he grappled with religion as a child and basically navigating this world he was in as a biracial child.

This book was great. I started it and was instantly drawn in. Noah’s intelligence seeps through in the way this book is written because he is able to tell his story even when it is at its most gruesome in a light hearted way. He finds a way to come out with a lesson  and how it contributed to who he is today.

As mentioned earlier, his mother was a major character in the book and wow what a woman or should I say, what a human being. Patricia Noah’s fearless energy shone throughout the book. She made bold decisions and was a determined person who fiercely loved her children. She had interesting child rearing tactics but it worked for her. It was also so fascinating to me that a woman with her characteristics still ended up with bottom barrel men who were abusive towards her, to the point where she almost lost her life.

The essays were not written in chronological order, so in one chapter Noah could be 19 and in the next he is back to being 11 years old. I didn’t quite like that. And even though I know it was about his childhood, I would have liked to know how he veered into comedy. Other than that this book really was an absolute delight. I feel like I say it a lot but listening to it via audio was a treat. Noah’s inflections, voices/accent imitation, singing and comedic chops made it even funnier and really took you to the setting of the book.

If you are looking for something fun that’s also serious, I definitely recommend.

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Memoirs

Book Review: This Will Only Hurt A Little

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Busy Philipps is an actress that is probably known more for other things than her acting roles. In recent years, she has become more popular from her Instagram stories and being so open about her life. I wasn’t privy to this knowledge and was surprised when she got a book deal. I was like who wants to hear about her life? The book was everywhere so I decided to get in on the action.

Busy obeyed the golden rule of memoirs and was very open. Like super, duper open. We get a detailed account of her life starting from her childhood, which unfortunately is always my least favorite part of celeb memoirs, I just can’t find myself wanting to care about it and would rather get to the juicy stuff. Busy shares her family dynamic and how her sister was so mean to her. She gets into the dirty when she talks about losing her virginity at 14 and having an abortion at 16.

She progresses to when she decides to be an actress, her first few years in college, her first big break with Freaks and Geeks where she was not a fan of James Franco and considered him to be a douche. She speaks about the set of Dawson’s Creek, becoming friends with Michelle Williams, her failed relationships. Meeting her husband and their difficulties, her weight struggles in Hollywood and struggling with being a parent and much more.

As is the rule, I audio’d this one and I liked the layout and pacing of the book but man, getting through her vocal fry and valley girl accent was a chore. She was also so hysterical for most of it and came off as entitled. Or was it bratty? She did give the disclaimer that her version of stories were her memories and it could quite possibly be wrong.

While she comes off as privileged, I did like how she acknowledged she had a sparkly personality which she explained as people always wanting to do stuff for you and things working out for her. But in another breath, she was open about how hard it was for her and her husband when the jobs dried up and they couldn’t afford a nanny before she got the Cougar Town gig. She wasn’t very kind to a lot of Hollywood figures in the book which was bold of her considering most people don’t speak up on this.

Overall, I think I liked the book but now in hindsight, I am thinking “did I?” because I am not sure I would recommend it? If Busy is someone that has been on your radar then I think it would be worth your time because she doesn’t skimp on details at all. That much I’ll give her.

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Memoirs

Book Review: Educated by Tara Westover

“On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping. I am only 7, but I understand that it is this fact more than any other that makes my family different. We don’t go to school. Dad worries that the government will force us to go, but it can’t because it doesn’t know about us. Four of my parents’ seven children don’t have birth certificates. We have no medical records because we were born at home and have never seen a doctor or nurse. We have no school records because we’ve never set foot in a classroom.”

This book was all the rage last year. It made all the best of 2018 lists I saw but I consciously avoided it because I had read “The Sound of Gravel” by Ruth Wariner and it was being compared to it in certain circles and I decided that I didn’t have the stomach for it. For some reason, I still requested it from my library last year where I was so far down on the list and promptly forgot about it, until it was released unexpectedly to me earlier this month. I am super glad I didn’t have anything else to read, so I took a chance on it.

“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.” 

Tara was born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho. They were fundamentalist Mormons and her father forbade hospitals, drugs, formal education and isolated them from mainstream society. Her father worked in a junk yard while her mother was a mid wife and that’s how they made their living as a family. Tara, never having been to a classroom, teaches herself math and grammar, takes the ACT and gets a high enough score to get admitted to Brigham Young University for undergrad. This book is about the tenacity of a child to want and envision better for herself than the life she was handed and to overcome the emotional and physical abuse she experienced in the hands of members of her family to go on to Ivy league schools.

“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.” 
I quite enjoyed this book, I thought it was well written and interesting to read. I really enjoyed and appreciated the descriptions of physical and emotional abuse that comes with certain aspects of religion and I like how delicately she handled that. She stresses that this is not a story about Mormonism, but a story about her family. I found it fascinating how much she still wanted to be loved and accepted by her family, even after getting an education and attaining so much for herself.  Even after she had rejected their way of life and religion and calling out her older brother, Shawn, for the abuse he meted out to them.They were all she had known and she loved them dearly and did not want to be alienated from them.

“I am not the child my father raised, but he is the father who raised her.” 

One of the things I found contradictory about this book was how much leeway they gave themselves on their isolation from the government stance. They still had a phone and a television even though they never went to the hospital or school. They even filed taxes which I found  incredible considering how terrible her dad thought the government was. I thought he made a lot of excuses for the excesses he allowed himself but would dig his heels in on things like, going to the hospital when he was burned all over, on the basis of religion. The author felt like her father had undiagnosed mental health issues and without sounding like a couch doctor, I definitely agree that there were some medical issues that made him stick with some beliefs while completely disregarding them when it suited him.

“We are all of us more complicated than the roles we are assigned in the stories other people tell”

A common criticism heaped on this book is questioning how much of this book is embellished. This was another reason I wanted to wait till the hype died down to read it for myself and make up my own mind. I do think that a lot of our memories might not be what they are.  But in the book, she consults the siblings she is still in contact with, to have them collaborate a lot of her memories and if she doesn’t remember something exactly, she lets the readers know that.

Also, having read the book, there is really nothing over the top that happens. I can see how this exact scenario can play out especially in the country I grew up in that is rampant with a lot of undiagnosed mental health issues masquerading as religion. I really enjoyed this one and urge people to read it with an open mind and away from the hype. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

Memoirs

Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

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“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others” 

The best selling book of 2018. A million and one people, including myself, made their way through this book over the holidays. A memoir of the former First Lady, Michelle tells us her story in 3 parts – her childhood, meeting and “becoming us” with Barrack and her time in the White House.

If you read our “Best of” post, you will recall that this was one of my favorite books of 2018. The #1 thing a memoir requires is openness and honesty and Michelle gave us that. You could tell that Michelle has been holding back and being PC because she sure had a lot to say. Every stage of her life was laid out in great detail in a way that lets the reader into her mind and understand what made her the way she is today.

I generally am inspired by women of substance and I don’t know if anyone exemplifies substance more than Michelle. This book was like a little self help/guide book to me and reminded me a lot of “Year of Yes” (which I gave 5 stars). I love how intentional Michelle was with a lot of things in her life and I identified strongly with her need to plan.

While I do think she lucked out with Barrack, I think she played a part in that “luck” because she had a strong sense of self and was ready for him in her life. It was so awesome to see how full of a life she had independently, before being Barrack’s wife. I am still in awe of how these two came to cross paths but the part where she set aside her fear and reluctance to be in the public eye and give Barrack the blessing to go into politics because she knew she couldn’t be the one to hold him back from his greatness was so admirable to me.

“It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful—a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids—and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.” 

The quote above is another facet in her life that Michelle shared with us when she lost people in her life. Susan’s story was a big life lesson for me. I liked that Michelle wrote this book through the lens of being a black woman. Gabrielle Union did the same thing and honestly I think it is quite impossible as a black person/woman to not view life through the lens of your color and gender.

Things I didn’t care for. The childhood part. It’s not a Michelle thing, I just generally find childhood stories in memoirs boring. I couldn’t wait to get to the future part. The most talked about things during the book promotions – her lust for Barrack and immediately spending nights at his apartment and how she would never forgive Trump were just that. As in, just those lines. We didn’t get any expanded or salacious stories.

I don’t know how Michelle was able to find the balance of being open and yet still not stepping on any toes but this worked on so many levels. Like with any memoir, I think it should be consumed audio style. She reads it herself by the way. I came away from this book just thinking of how amazing a woman she is. This is a strong recommend from me.

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