Book coverWhen I was twenty-three, I dated a former high-school football star. It was, I think, one of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever done, reliving as a sort-of adult the adolescence I hadn’t taken advantage of (granted, during my adolescence, football stars weren’t the object of my pining).

After I discovered the absolutely and fully obvious truth that this dude was an asshole, I spent a couple of weeks on the couch with a box of tissues, drowning in a sea of self-loathing for making all the wrong decisions. I’d known better, and I lost a lot of trust in myself. Then I got over it.

Ten years later, having worked through my adolescent bullshit, I was again blindsided by the betrayal of someone I had an intimate relationship with. Not a lover this time, but a friend. The best of friends, or so I’d thought.

This time was worse, because I hadn’t done anything stupid. At least not intentionally. All I had done was open myself up to a person it turned out isn’t capable of actual friendship. She faked it really well, though. And in the end, after the pain and the bourbon and the collective whiplash of an entire social community she exited without so much as a genuine tear, I have the perspective to see how expertly she’d exploited my every vulnerability. She’d played me like a fiddle.

Like my cheating-asshole-ex-boyfriend, she didn’t do any lasting damage beyond a couple of years that were really hard. I mean, one doesn’t really know how to be broken up with by a friend. Especially one it turns out was secretly on the batshit-crazy spectrum. I did the beating-up of myself for not seeing it. I did the beating-up of myself for naively playing exactly the role she’d required of me. But in the end, all I feel is pity for the new life she’s started, entirely divorced from the old life she’d built then abandoned. The poor people she now manipulates must certainly believe she was a victim of us, her old life. They must certainly feel so special she’s decided now to trust them, to love them. But I have a sick feeling they’ll end up abandoned themselves eventually. And that really sucks.

I’m writing about all this because I just read Mother, Mother, by Koren Zailckas, for the From Left to Write book club. It’s about a mother with narcissistic personality disorder who, through lies and manipulation, utterly destroys her family. The writing was a bit clunky and the story seemed forced at times, but it sure shot me right through the heart. At all times while reading it, I relived shock and pain. I would have stopped reading, but I developed a need to see this woman go down. Like a revenge fantasy.

(If you’re at all familiar with how narcissists work, you may guess whether I was satisfied in the end.)

A controlling mother, a missing daughter, and a family desperate for love. This post was inspired by the the psychological thriller Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas. Join From Left to Write on September 19 as we discuss Mother, Mother. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.