Goodread ~ A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity.
On a hot July night on Cape Cod when Adrienne was fourteen, her mother, Malabar, woke her at midnight with five simple words that would set the course of both of their lives for years to come: Ben Souther just kissed me.
Adrienne instantly became her mother’s confidante and helpmate, blossoming in the sudden light of her attention, and from then on, Malabar came to rely on her daughter to help orchestrate what would become an epic affair with her husband’s closest friend. The affair would have calamitous consequences for everyone involved, impacting Adrienne’s life in profound ways, driving her into a precarious marriage of her own, and then into a deep depression. Only years later will she find the strength to embrace her life - and her mother - on her own terms.
Rennie (the author) was young when her parents divorced. Malabar, her mother, met a rich older fella named Charles (real name was Harry Hornblower) and just before they were to be married, he had a stroke which pretty well paralyzed his right side. Malabar married him out of obligation (how would it look if she broke it off with him?!) but enjoyed the wealth that came with him. Rennie and her brother, Peter (whose real name is Stephen), were then raised in wealth. Charles' longtime best friend was Ben (real name was William Brewster) and Ben's wife was Lily (real name was Lucile) and the two couples would hang out often together. One night Ben kissed Malabar and so began their affair.
The night of the kiss, Malabar woke up her 14-year-old daughter in the middle of the night to tell her about it. From then onwards, Rennie became her mother's confidante and would cover up for her mother so Malabar and Ben could get together. Malabar and Ben were apparently in love but decided that they couldn't be together until their spouses had passed away. Rennie found this noble and saw Malabar and Ben as the victims because they were stuck in marriages with frail spouses who they didn't want to hurt. Really?!
Rennie ends up falling in love with Jack (real name is Chris), Ben and Lily's son, and they decided to get married. Rennie still knows about Malabar and Ben but Jack doesn't. When he finally finds out, it doesn't seem like it's that big of a deal. Huh?! Your mother-in-law has been screwing around with your father for all these years!
When Charles passes away, Malabar assumes she and Ben can finally be together. But no! Lily finds out about the affair and forbids them to ever see each other again. About two seconds after Lily passes away, Ben is scampering over to Malabar's to pick up where they'd left off and a couple months later they get married.
What a story! Ben and Malabar were especially unlikable. Yes, Malabar had a crazy upbringing but instead of ensuring that her daughter would feel the love she didn't, she had more love for herself and it was all about Malabar. Rennie kept over and over trying to earn her mother's love before finally realizing this. What kind of a friend was Ben to have an affair with the wife of his best friend of many years ... right in front of Charles' and Lily's nose?!
I don't know why Rennie let herself get involved in the Malabar ~ Ben thing. She acknowledged that she loved Charles so why would she enable him to get hurt? Even at fourteen she should have had enough sense to not get involved in Malabar and Ben's schemes. And she still got sucked in as she got older.
I thought it was odd that the author changed the names of everyone but her and her mom. It was easy enough to Google "Malabar Brodeur" and find her because she had written some cookbooks. From there, I found an obituary for "Ben" which gave their real names, a wedding announcement for Malabar and "Charles", a wedding announcement for Rennie and "Jack", and more. Plus the author provides all the names in the acknowledgements at the end. Why both changing the names in the body of the book?!