Podcast 259: Happier Podcast Book Club: Adrienne Brodeur Talks About “Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me”

Happier Podcast Book Club

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

Last year, we launched our Happier Podcast Book Club, and today we’ll talk about our next choice—the brilliant memoir Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me.

Author Adrienne Brodeur worked in publishing for a long time. Among other things, she founded the fiction magazine Zoetrope: All-Story with filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, and served as editor in chief for many years. She was a book editor for works of literary fiction and memoir. She became Creative Director—and later Executive Director—of Aspen Words, a literary arts nonprofit and program of the Aspen Institute.

Wild Game has generated a huge amount of buzz. It has been a big bestseller and was named a Best Book of 2019 by NPR, Washington Post, Slate, Library Journal, and others.

Here’s the description:

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. Wild Game is a brilliant, timeless memoir about how the people close to us can break our hearts simply because they have access to them, and the lies we tell in order to justify the choices we make. It’s a remarkable story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were to us.

We were so pleased to talk to Adrienne right in the studio here in New York City.

We talked about many things:

  • the brilliant title and jacket photograph for the book—it turns out the photo on the cover is actually Adrienne’s mother
  • whether a book that was so easy to read was difficult to write
  • whether Adrienne would’ve felt comfortable writing the book if her mother was more aware of what she’d written
  • why she changed the names of some characters when it’s so easy to figure out their actual names
  • how and why the situation damaged Adrienne’s relationship with her brother

From listeners:

  • what do the other people in the story, like your stepfather Charles’s children, think about the writing and publication of the book?
  • did she ever have that necklace appraised?
  • in her Acknowledgements, why did she thank her mother with her first and most abiding love?”
  • how do you think about secrets now, given this secret dominated so much of your life?  As we mentioned, Adrienne did a great interview with Dani Shapiro, on her terrific podcast Family Secrets in the episode titled “The Confidante.” You can listen to our discussion with Dani about her memoir Inheritance in episode 212.)
  • What is it like to go through life now, other people knowing so much about your most raw self?

NOTE: This is the first time that Adrienne has released a photo of the necklace—we’re so happy to be able to show it to our listeners.

Adrienne reads the poem “The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver that serves as the epigraph for the book:

The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver (In my sleep I dreamed this poem) Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.

Adrienne’s Try This at Home: Adrienne suggests self-awareness as the key to a happy life. Knowing yourself and understanding yourself helps so much as you navigate the world, and that’s been my mission in my own life.

Remember: Whenever it is and wherever you are, there’s always a book waiting for you.


  • Do you need more book recommendations? You can follow me on Goodreads, check the hashtag #GretchenRubinReads for my weekly photo of what I read that week, or read my monthly blog post where I share a quick description or response to each book I read that month.
  • Looking for a simple way to relax or do a creative activity to do while you listen to the Happier Podcast? I have a coloring book called The Happiness Project Mini Posters that has thick pages you can color and pull out to frame or give to a friend. It makes a great gift. You can also download a free sample page to color at GretchenRubin.com/resources.

LATEST episodes



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.