BAD MARIE by Marcy Dermansky [Review]

While I was reading Bad Marie, a book populated with deeply flawed, unusual characters, one question kept popping into my mind: “Who are these people?” As you can probably tell from the title, Marie behaves badly: she’s impulsive, selfish, and has a sense of entitlement that knows no bounds. After serving time in prison for helping her ex-boyfriend flee the police after a bank robbery and murder, Marie is hired by her childhood friend, Ellen, to work as a nanny to two-year-old Caitlin. She mostly eats Ellen’s food, steals her stuff, and lusts after her husband, Benoit, although she does seem to care about Caitlin. That arrangement doesn’t last too long though, as Ellen and Benoit return home one night to find Marie passed out drunk in the bathtub with Caitlin. Ellen’s angry, but Benoit, well, he’s transfixed by the sight of naked Marie’s voluptuous body. She and Benoit are soon hooking up, and Marie, convinced that Ellen doesn’t deserve her husband and daughter, runs off to Paris with Benoit and Caitlin. Kidnapping, husband stealing—the question is what will Marie do next on her foreign adventure?

At the end of the novel, author Marcy Dermansky explains that Bad Marie is her attempt at writing a French film, and I can’t think of a better way to describe the book. Marie is an outrageous character and her unbelievable experiences seem straight out of movie. The thing is, much like after watching an artsy, subtitled foreign film, I felt vaguely unsatisfied and like I’m just too unsophisticated to “get” the story. Was I supposed to root for Marie after she steals her friend’s baby? Or admire the balls it takes to just do whatever the hell you want and not care about the consequences? Mostly I just wanted to see Marie tossed back behind bars where she belongs and Benoit get some sense smacked into him. Still, as frustrating and unrelatable as I found these characters, it was fun to read about people who aren’t vanilla and ordinary. It’s nearly impossible not to get sucked into their story and want to find out what will happen next. The book is unpredictable and unusual, and I recommend Bad Marie to anyone looking to add some edginess to his/her summer reading list.

Quotes from Bad Marie:

The situation would have been humiliating had Marie any ambition in life. Fortunately, Marie was not in any way ambitious.

Benoit Doniel was looking at Marie, looking at her naked. Benoit Doniel. Marie loved to say his name in her head. Benoit Doniel. Benoit Doniel. Benoit Doniel. It tasted good in her mouth, like chocolate. Like chocolate dipped in whiskey.

Jail had been a better, more instructive time in her life than both college and high school. Sometimes, starting into Ellen’s refrigerator, the drawers and closets full of clothes, jewelry, confronted with so many choices, Marie missed it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Harper Perennial | Pages: 240 | Source: Publisher | Buy on Amazon

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