The Secrets We Carry | Adrienne Brodeur


Life changing conversations can happen at any time in our lives—but what if you are 14 and your mother reveals a secret that upends your adolescence and sends you on a decades long journey to untangle from the world she brought you in, the world you were happy to be a part of? Adrian Brodeaur’s best selling book, Wild Game, examines the price she paid to be her mother’s confidant and helper in an epic affair with her husband’s closest friend. The story doesn’t end there. 

Meet Adrienne

Adrienne Brodeur is the best-selling author of the novel Little Monsters (2023)— a New York Times editors choice and a Vogue best book of 2023 — and the memoir Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me (2019), which The New York Times Book Review described as: “Exquisite and harrowing. . . . The book is so gorgeously written and deeply insightful, and with a line of narrative tension that never slacks, from the first page to the last, that it’s one you’ll likely read in a single, delicious sitting.” Wild Game’s film rights were bought by Chernin Entertainment with Nick Hornby attached to adapt and Deniz Gamze Ergüven, the director of Mustang, attached to direct.

Adrienne has spent most of her professional life in the literary world, discovering voices and cultivating talent. Her publishing career began with the founding of the fiction magazine Zoetrope: All-Story with filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, where she served as editor-in-chief from 1996-2002. The magazine has won the National Magazine Award for Best Fiction four times. In 2005, she became an editor at Harcourt (later, HMH Books), where she acquired and edited literary fiction and memoir. Adrienne left publishing in 2013 to become Creative Director — and later Executive Director — of Aspen Words, a literary arts nonprofit and program of the Aspen Institute. In 2017, she launched the Aspen Words Literary Prize, a $35,000 annual award for an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.


Adrienne splits her time between Cambridge and Cape Cod, where she lives with her husband and children. 


“Broudeur offers one of the most humane looks at a profoundly flawed mother that I have ever read.” – LA Review


The Mother-Daughter Bond

Adrienne’s story unveils a pivotal moment in her adolescence, when she was abruptly thrust into a world of adult secrets and complex emotions. 

In the dead of night, at the age of 14, Adrienne’s mother divulged a life-altering revelation—her stepfather’s best friend had kissed her. This exposed secret transformed their mother-daughter dynamic, propelling Adrienne into the role of a confidant and best friend. It was a defining shift in their relationship: creating a distinct break in the before and after of the confiding moment.

Despite the tumultuous events that unfolded, 14-year-old Adrienne found herself drawn to the newfound relationship with her mother. The mother she always looked up to was treating her as someone she needed.

Adrienne’s step-father was a wonderful man to her mother, but right before their marriage, he had suffered five strokes that paralyzed him, ultimately changing him—he wasn’t the man she fell in love with. Her mom stayed by his side through it all, yet no one could have predicted the love affair that was to come.

Adrienne’s story resonates deeply with those navigating their own familial complexities and seeking solace and understanding. The experience of a child stepping into their parent’s world at such a young age and being a trusted confidant can make for a huge shift in the relationship, but also the experience of the child. 

Memories Allow for Evolved Emotions

This story, and many like it, serve as a reminder of the resilience and strength found beyond the innocence of adolescence. While Adrienne looks back at her childhood, it doesn’t seem odd—as that’s the only childhood she knew. Now, when looking at her own daughter, who was 14 when the book came out, she has a newfound perspective on the scenario.

Her opinion and view on what happened has even evolved even since she’s died; through reading emails, exploring her memories, and documenting her memoir, she’s found that there are so many different perceptions involved. She has her own memories to recount, her mother’s documents, and then considering what others felt and knew at the time.

The Blurred Line in a Mother-Daughter Relationship

As Adrienne watches her own daughter move into adulthood, she’s seeing just how blurred the line can be in a mother-daughter relationship. Many mother-daughter relationships have a primal instinct to be two halves of a whole—moving away from this can be difficult when the bond is so strong.

For Adrienne, she realized that with her mother, they didn’t separate that line until she was in her thirties. This occurred to her while she’s navigating this important boundary with 18-year-old daughter. Seeing her daughter bloom into her own independence is something she’s proud of, as it wasn’t something she was able to do at that age.

Navigating Parenthood As Our Best Selves

Our parents’ ceiling is our bottom floor. We’re all just trying to do better, and be better than those before us.

Parenting isn’t easy and there isn’t a guidebook on it. Adrienne describes her mother as a complex woman—including a few stories that shaped her mother into who she was.

While her mother had her own issues, she also faced a lot of her own traumas and overcame them in ways Adrienne doesn’t know if she could. Adrienne’s parents lost her older brother when he was a toddler in a choking accident. Her mother may have drank too much, yet for what she went through, it could have been worse.

Writing Her Mother’s Story

For years, Adrienne would feel a tug to write about her mother’s story and the relationship they had. While it wasn’t hard for her to write, there was a lot of anxiety around exposing the story.

The secret of the affair had already come out, long before the book, Wild Game, was ever written, yet there was still some anxiety there.

As Adrienne looks back on her past writings, she’s found short stories that touch on the topic, without revealing too much. When the secret came out, it gave her the permission to write about it. The decision to turn it into a memoir came after a panic attack in the hospital after giving birth. The attack occurred after Adrienne ran into her mother and new step-father—the man who kissed her mother when she was 14—after giving birth. It was as if her body was telling her to protect her daughter from that trauma.

Secrets Hold You Back

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community.” For Adrienne, secrets created loneliness. You don’t want to expose yourself or share, leaving you feeling alone.

Adrienne came from a long line of secret keepers—she had to decide to not be that and to end that cycle with herself. Making this choice left her feeling liberated.

So often what I gain from listening to someone like Adrienne—someone who is so eloquent and such a beautiful writer, who has had to overcome something overwhelming, isn’t necessarily the trauma of the experience, but the path to acceptance and love. That is where the magic is.

The glorious magic of life that makes us who we are. There is love in life, loss, possessions, relationships ending, but it’s how we capture these experiences and alchemize them into art that is the pure wonder of life.

Connect with Adrienne


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