Bad Marie, by Marcy Dermansky
Bad Marie is a bad influence. I say this because while reading Marcy Dermansky’s second novel, Bad Marie, I was driven to do something that I, as a mother of a small, active child, never do anymore–and that is stay up past 11PM reading, which should tell you something about how engrossing this novel is if even an exhausted mother will stay up late reading it.
It is that good.
So what about Marie? Who is she? She’s a nanny. She’s an ex-con. She’s a fuck up. She’s also got a big, twisted heart that wants love and healing and happiness and yet all of the people she’s ever loved have let her down; basically, Marie makes bad choices about who to love. Except for one. And that one is the little kid she babysits for, Caitlin. And in this relationship between caregiver and child is the crux of the story.
Of course, being a two-year-old there is one crucial moment when Caitlin does disappoint Marie because she cannot possibly respond in an adult. In that moment, Marie first decides to respond in her typical way, but finds she can’t do it. She has grown. She has learned to put this child’s needs above her own. And that, my friends, is pretty close the love a parent feels.
Okay, so Marie is still not technically doing the right thing in that she kidnapped Caitlin from first her mother and then her father, but her heart is eventually in the right place. Ultimately, she does feel guilt and does want what’s best for Caitlin; she just lacks the skills to figure out how do the right thing.
Here is a book that is both literary and plot driven, humorous and heartbreaking. Here is a book that makes you feel for the protagonist despite the horrible things she does. After all, she is still that hard luck kid whose friend’s mother took pity. Okay, she is a grown up and she’s doing a horrible thing by keeping this child from her parents, but, in the end, her intentions are sort of good. In the end, I believe she will bring Caitlin home.
This is not to say I want to befriend Marie or have her watch my kid (and sleep with my husband), but I do understand her a bit more. I do feel for her. With that said, I was extremely anxious as I read the final 20 or so pages of this book and felt that I constantly needed to make sure that my kid was okay. As such, I finished the book sitting on the couch next to him as he watched Cyberchase with his bare feet tucked up under my leg to keep them warm. I did not want to let him out of my sight.
All this is to say, it’s a book that stirs up a lot of complex emotion and it’s a brave book. There are readers, I’m sure, who will judge the book solely on the actions of the character. If they did so, they would be missing out. Bad Marieis a book you will not want to miss.