Bad Marie, by Marcy Dermansky. Pub 2010
This book and author were recommended by a colleague/client and friend. We met for lunch in April, ostensibly to discuss past and future work, but discovered a mutual fondness for reading. We spent nearly 90 minutes talking about books (can you have too many?), reading (the joy of that quiet time, alone or with others), authors, and just our mutual delight and having found a kindred spirit. (We eventually realized that we were supposed to talk shop, so did that for a bit, before departing.) Afterwards, we exchanged emails with our recommendations for each other. This book was among his recommendations to me.
Bad Marie is not as bad as everyone thinks, at least not in my reading of her in this story. She makes some pretty terrible choices and decisions, and does some cringe-worthy things. Despite the damage she wreaks on herself and those around her, she is also a kindhearted, caring, woman. She definitely lapses, and would be a lousy friend, but throughout the story you can’t help but cheer for her and encourage as she inches towards redemption, never quite making it, but always wanting to and never giving up the pursuit of it. I felt especially for her poor treatment by the men in her life, and while she chooses them, and doesn’t make things easy or workable, the men treat her as disposable, contributing to the considerable empathy for continued bad choices. (To be fair, the other women in the story are not much better, but few of those relationships are ones that she chooses. Most are coincidental to the relationships with men.)
My friend suggested that the style of writing was very “French”, and I wasn’t sure what he meant at first. The novel presents the story from several perspectives all at once, moving fluidly from Marie’s conscience to her sub-conscience to the external viewpoint and back again, all seamlessly. One almost gets the sense that the dialogue and other characters might be unreliable, as there is no clear objective viewpoint, and no other character’s opinion or perspective is provided. Perhaps the best example is the best friend; her treatment of Marie seems condescending and harsh, and while Marie concedes that there is some justification for this, the friend’s own thoughts and feelings are never presented, except in the occasional bit of dialogue (which one suspects is Marie’s version and not a transcript). This single personality is perhaps the “French”-ness of the novel. And I enjoyed it, as a full-on character study with story.
I will go on to read her other books, after catching up on others on my list. But I’ll be further exploring his recommended authors, as Marcy Dermansky was a definite winner.