Marie went to prison for six years after her boyfriend robbed a bank. She ends up the live-in nanny for a woman she grew up with. They can't quite be classified as "friends" because Ellen doesn't particularly like Marie. Ellen has even less reason to like Marie after she seduces her husband and essentially kidnaps her child.
And that's not spoiling anything.
In the beginning of this novel, Marie is an idiot. She kinda stays that way throughout, but she at least gains some semblance of maturity and selflessness from caring for Caitlyn, the little girl in the book. While Marie makes stupid decisions that made my head spin, she is an endlessly interesting character. She doesn't really feel malicious, she's just kinda clueless and bored?? Numb??? Until Caitlyn.
There were highs and lows for me in Bad Marie. Marcy Dermansky's writing is most definitely a high. It's matter of fact and concise. There's not a lot of extraneous description or fluff. She tells a tightly-woven story which made me cringe in spots. With the newfound sensitivity to all things child (ever since I had my own), I really felt for Caitlyn during the parts of the book when Marie was just dragging her along for her own selfish, shitty reasons. She wanted this or that thrill, this or that false feeling of accomplishment. By the time the book ended I still wanted to slap Marie, but I felt like she had turned the corner toward doing the right thing. It's a testament to Dermansky's writing that I had such a visceral reaction to Marie's and Caitlyn's plight.
On the lower end, I felt there was a little too much "and it just so happened" in this novel. After Marie was released from prison, she just so happened to get a job with a friend who didn't really like her growing up? And that friend just so happened to be married to the novelist whose book Marie latched onto and re-read compulsively in prison? And Marie just so happened to meet two movie stars on her trek? REALLY?! So yes, I had a problem with that. It made me roll my eyes. Did it change my opinion of the book? Not really. Marie was the real basket case star here, and she was written very well.
My e-book copy of Bad Marie also includes some extra materials in the back: a short interview with Marcy Dermansky, a list of movies and books she's found influential. As it turns out, Dermansky is also a movie critic and highly influenced by French film. I'm certainly no expert, but I found this insight into the author very fresh and likable, and I'd like to know more about the films she finds worthwhile. There goes my Netflix queue, growing all the time. Call me a sucker for intertexuality.
I have to thank Marcy Dermansky and Bad Marie for pulling me out of my reading slump for a bit. This novel was just the thing: crisp writing and a short page count (167). I recommend it whether you're slumping or not, and I think it'd be great for discussion.
Write on, Ms. Dermansky! Right on!
Snuggle -- Skewer
Pub. Date: June 2010