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Adrienne Brodeur's 'Wild Game': 'Holding Secrets Keeps You From Being Known'

Dec 5, 2019

Aspen Words executive director Adrienne Brodeur addresses a crowd on her "Wild Game" book tour
Credit Aspen Words

One night, when Aspen Words executive director Adrienne Brodeur was 14, her mother snuck into her bedroom and told her that she was having an affair, and she needed her daughter to serve as a co-conspirator. For years, Brodeur kept her mother’s secret, but it took its toll. 

"What holding secrets does to a person, is it keeps you from being known. You can have friendships, you can have boyfriends, you can have teachers, but no one really sees you because you’re withholding parts of yourself," she said.

The book outlines the years that Brodeur kept her mother's secret. She spoke with reporter Christin Kay about how she finally created a life and identity separate from her mother's. 

When did you know that you had to write this book? 

"I think on some level I probably knew when I was 14. I’ve been aware that I wanted to write about it for years. Figuring out how to write about it has been a Herculean task. It wasn’t until I had a family of my own that I realized the only way to face it was head-on through memoir. 

It was those connective tissues. I had to revisit journals to understand where my head was. My mother was a writer and had a food column and wrote a lot of travel essays, so figuring out the meals I remembered, what time they were and putting together the jigsaw puzzle. It is much harder figuring out your own timeline than you realize."

You eventually marry the son of the man your mother was having the affair with. At the beginning of the relationship, you write, “I hadn’t told my new boyfriend that our parents were in love and had been having an affair for years.  It hadn’t even occured to me to tell him.” What was it like to reflect on your younger self as you wrote those lines?

 

I was shocked by so many things. Now, if I had a secret, I would be so aware of it in every situation Then, it was the norm. It never seemed wrong to me. My allegiance was to my mother.

"One of the most beautiful parts of writing is that it helps me understand what I think. It’s this method of organizing yourself and your thoughts. I was shocked by so many things. I’d forgotten that it hadn’t occured to me. I mean now, if I had a secret, and I’m pretty vigilant about being transparent and open, but if I had a secret, I would be so aware of it in every situation and uncomfortable. Then, it was the norm. It never seemed wrong to me. My allegiance was to my mother." 

Talk about what you had to do to break away from your mother and develop your own moral compass. 

"Part of finding of my way was largely done through literature. I mean, there was therapy, there are friendships, there were all sorts of other things that happened, but it was through reading that I really learned a lot of life’s lessons. Reading is the most fundamentally empathetic act. You read something, and if you allow yourself, you inhabit that world. There are so many moral lesson to books. It was one of the things that, when I look back, I think really saved me." 

 

Brodeur speaks about “Wild Game” at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Wheeler Opera House.