“Bad Marie” by Marcy Dermansky

Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky is a dark, weird little book. It’s deliberately weird, though, so don’t expect realism. It’s also not a chaste story. There’s drunkenness, promiscuity, and a variety of bad behavior, as the title indicates. Coincidences and bizarre twists of fortune serve to highlight the bad, and sometimes good, behavior of Marie and those around her.

Sometimes, Marie got a little drunk at work.

She took care of Caitlin, the precocious two-and-a-half-year-old daughter of her friend Ellen Kendall. It was a full-time job. Marie got paid in cash and was given a room in the basement.

She never drank in the daytime. Only at night. Marie didn’t see the harm: a little whiskey, a little chocolate. Marie liked to watch bad movies on TV while Caitlin slept. She liked wandering over to the fully stocked refrigerator and hel;ing herself to whatever she wanted to deat. Marie constant marveled over the food: French cheeses, leftover steak, fresh-squeezed orange juice, raspberries imported from Portugal. It had only been three weeks since Marie’s thirtieth birthday, the day that she had gotten out of jail.

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

Stylized and over the top, it reminded me more than a little of Linda Fiorentino’s femme fatale in The Last Seduction. Like that character, Marie is the star of her own story, not merely the accessory to those who are hurt by her. And as the book unfolds, I couldn’t help but wonder: didn’t some of them deserve what happened to them, at least a little? It’s a nervy book that seems to encourage the reader to be unsympathetic with its messed-up main character, while sneakily making it impossible not to root for her. A darkly fun, fast read. It fell in the first round of the year’s Morning News Tournament of Books, but I’m happy I got the chance to enjoy it.

One Response to ““Bad Marie” by Marcy Dermansky”

  1. Steph Says:

    I haven’t read this book, and indeed, hadn’t heard of it until it made the shortlist for the ToB, but since I’m one of those people who really didn’t like ROOM, I was hoping this would trounce it. I read the first few pages on Amazon, and I thought the voice was really compelling and would easily have kept on reading. I have to admit, few of the books in the tournament have really piqued my interest this year, but this was one that seemed a bit different.