After serving six years in prison for helping her boyfriend escape to Mexico after an armed robbery went bad, Marie seeks out her old friend Ellen to help her get back on her feet. Against her better judgment, Ellen agrees to allow Marie to be the nanny to her two-year-old daughter, Caitlin. Initially, it’s not clear who is the adult and who is the child- Marie needs Caitlin to remind her to do basic things, such as bathe her even when she is visibly dirty. The arrangement lasts only a few short weeks, before Marie falls asleep drunk in the bathtub with Caitlin. Ellen gives Marie her walking papers, and Marie responds the only way she knows how- by seducing Ellen’s husband, an author whose one novel was Marie’s lifeline while in prison. What follows is the aftereffects of the seduction and Marie’s total inability to behave like a rational adult.
Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky was the first book I read during the read-a-thon, and it was an interesting look at a woman who literally had no moral compass and no sense of right and wrong. Pretty much everything Marie did was reprehensible, and if Marie was someone I knew in real life, I would probably hate her. And here’s the crux of the matter: I liked Marie. I found myself having a hard time faulting her because she genuinely believed she wasn’t doing anything wrong, or at least anything more wrong than what other people were doing.
Drinking in the bathtub with Caitlin? Well, she’d already put Caitlin in bed when Caitlin reminded her about the bath, so she might as well finish the drink. Running away to France with Benoît Doniel, Ellen’s husband? His chief attraction wasn’t that he was Ellen’s husband, but that he was the author of Marie’s favorite book. As it says, “Benoît was having an affair. Marie was not sure what she was having.” But it stems from her love of Virginie at Sea, Benoît Doniel’s novel, the one thing Marie had loved while in prison. So you kind of forgive her for it.
Overall, I thought this book was fascinating and wonderful, and huge kudos to Marcy Dermansky for making Marie so sympathetic.