Have you ever known anyone with absolutely no impulse control? Someone who just lives entirely in the moment, thinking only of the current crisis or immediate desire? That, in a nutshell, is the titular Marie from Marcy Dermansky’s novel. In the past, her lack of foresight landed her in prison as an accessory to robbery and murder. Now, she’s working as a live-in babysitter for her former friend Ellen, drinking her days away, and pondering how she might seduce Ellen’s husband Benoît, who happens to be the author of a novel that saw Marie through her years in prison.
Now that the TBR Dare is over, I’m finally reading some of the review books that landed in my TBR pile since the start of the year. This book was one I picked up at a galley giveaway at One More Page Books. I was a little skeptical about it, but the conversation surrounding it during the Tournament of Books got me more interested, and I ended up wolfing the whole thing down in one sitting (except for a short break to check on my cat—if you’ve read the book you’ll understand the impulse there).
Marie is an absolutely awful character, but her antics make this book compulsively readable. It’s just one outrageous incident after another. After she gets caught drinking a whiskey while taking a bath with her toddler charge, Caitlin, she decides to step up her efforts at seducing Benoît before she’s kicked out for good. Next thing you know, Marie, Benoît, and Caitlin are on a plane to Paris. Her Paris adventures quickly sour, but she’s undaunted—she will enjoy herself, and even more important, she will take care of Caitlin.
As terrible as Marie is, she is simply swept away by Caitlin. She’s not in any way a proper caretaker, but she never considers abandoning her charge. (Marie may be bad, but she’s no monster, unlike another character I could mention.) There’s something in her that hungers for the affection, the dependence, that she gets from this little girl. Dermansky reveals enough of Marie’s history to make her sympathetic, but she doesn’t sugar coat Marie’s actions. Caitlin is most decidedly not in good hands, but the comic, over-the-top nature of the book kept it from ever feeling quite like a child-in-jeopardy story. It’s just not a book to take seriously in that way.
It might sound like this is a sentimental book about how a child turns a free spirit into a responsible adult, and to some degree it is. But Dermansky deftly avoids turning this into a sappy heart-warming story about the softening influence of a child. By the end of the book, Marie has changed, but there’s no tidy resolution. It’s a surprisingly satisfying read.