Bad Marie: A Novel

Bad Marie: A Novel

3.3 25
by Marcy Dermansky

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“Reading Marcy Dermansky’s Bad Marie is like spending a rainy afternoon in a smaller, older movie theater watching a charming French movie with a woman (or a man) you’ve just met on the street and already like far too much. It’s sinful in all the right ways, delicate, seditious, and deliciously evil.” — Frederick


“Reading Marcy Dermansky’s Bad Marie is like spending a rainy afternoon in a smaller, older movie theater watching a charming French movie with a woman (or a man) you’ve just met on the street and already like far too much. It’s sinful in all the right ways, delicate, seditious, and deliciously evil.” — Frederick Barthelme

“Dermansky excels at depicting extreme emotional states and how we rationalize them.” —Village Voice

From the critically-acclaimed author of Twins, Marcy Dermansky, comes a highly original novel of Manhattan, Paris, and Mexico; of love and motherhood; and of life on the lam. Fans of Heather O’Neill (Lullabies for Little Criminals) and A.M. Homes (Music for Torching) will revel in the wicked delights of Bad Marie.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dermansky follows her lauded debut, Twins, with a trite tail about an ex-con's unlikely re-entry to the world. After serving six years for harboring a fugitive--her bank robber boyfriend--30-year-old Marie is released and misses the decisionless ease of prison life. She finds work as a live-in nanny (nothing like a felon watching your pride and joy) for two-and-a-half-year-old Caitlin, the daughter of her childhood best friend, Ellen, with whom she has a rocky, competitive relationship. In a hard-to-believe coincidence, Ellen is married to the French author, Benoît Doniel, whose book Marie read repeatedly while in prison, and soon enough, Benoît and Marie kick off an affair and decide to run away to Paris together with Caitlin. But when Benoît's true colors are displayed before even landing in the City of Lights (thanks to another unbelievable coincidence), Marie finds herself taking on the role of a single mother in a strange land, though her travails never really impede on her relatively charmed streak. It's off-putting how heavily the plot relies on implausible twists, and Marie is too sketchily drawn to carry the full weight of the story. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
Marie truly is bad-a toddler kidnapping, husband stealing ex-con with a giant chip on her shoulder. As the novel by Dermansky (Twins, 2005) begins, Marie's just served six years in prison for helping her boyfriend (of less than a week) Juan Jose escape to Mexico after he was involved in a fatal bank robbery. For reasons that never ring true, as soon as she's released Marie lucks into a nanny job with her childhood friend/nemesis Ellen, a successful New York lawyer. Marie's widowed mother worked as a part-time housekeeper (despite her doctorate) for Ellen's parents, who forced the two girls into friendship. Marie used to steal from Ellen then and she steals from her now-at first jewelry, liquor and money. Ellen's two-year-old daughter Caitlin adores Marie, and Marie is happily ensconced until the night Ellen and her handsome French husband Benoit come home to discover Marie passed out in a full tub with Caitlin. Ellen is outraged; Benoit, the author of Marie's favorite novel, is aroused. By the next day he's in bed with Marie, and soon, using hapless Ellen's credit card, he's buying airline tickets to Paris for himself, Marie and Caitlin. But on the plane he runs into his old girlfriend, now a famous actress. By the time Marie realizes that he took credit for writing his sister's novel after she committed suicide, he's abandoned Marie for the actress. With Caitlin and a stolen stroller in tow, Marie heads to the Riviera with a kindly movie star. When he asks Marie to leave, she and Caitlin head to Mexico where she remembers spending happy times with Juan Jose, who later committed suicide in prison. But his family hates her. She abandons Caitlin on the beach to attempt suicide but has second thoughts. Miraculously Caitlin remains safe. Marie checks them into a resort with a stolen credit card and waits for what will happen next. Some will find this morally ambiguous little romp delicious, others repellent.

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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 helping herself to whatever she wanted to eat. Marie constantly marveled over the food: French cheeses, left-over 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. Changing diapers and making lunch, taking Caitlin out for walks to the neighborhood park - these were things that Marie could do. Marie liked living in Manhattan. She liked listening to the lilted banter of the other nannies from the neighborhood, mainly black women from the West Indies. Marie even liked the educational TV she watched with Caitlin. Sesame Street was just Marie's speed. She often napped during Caitlin's afternoon naptimes.

Marie, who hadn't felt much of any emotion since her boyfriend had killed himself in prison nearly six years ago, found herself crazy in love with a two-and-a-half year old girl. It unnerved Marie, how strongly she felt. Smitten. They both loved chocolate pudding and macaroni and cheese from the box above all other foods. They could not take enough baths. Caitlin was bossy but that suited Marie fine. Marie often felt herself in need of a leader.

Marie was pleasantly drunk the night Ellen and her French husband came home from the theater and found Marie passed out in the bath tub. She had put Caitlin to sleep and was watching bad television, a movie about a sexy teenaged babysitter. First the babysitter drugged the mother, then she seduced the father, and at the moment when Caitlin started to scream, she was chasing the daughter through the house, wielding a kitchen knife.

Marie. Marie Marie Marie.

Marie ran as fast as she could to Caitlin's room, crashing into an end table on the way, breaking a ceramic vase, afraid of everything: an intruder with a gun, a poisonous spider beneath the sheets, a monster in the closet. A raging fever. Knife wielding babysitters.

But nothing was wrong.

Caitlin wanted to take a bath.

"You aren't sick?" Marie said, out of breath, trembling.

"You forgot my bath." Caitlin was standing up in her crib, holding on the bars as if she were ready to revolt. "I feel sticky. I want my bath."

Caitlin was red from screaming. Marie was shaking with anger. Relief. She lifted Caitlin from the crib and discovered that the little girl was, in fact, sticky. Not only sticky, but visibly dirty. Her face was smeared with chocolate ice cream; they had eaten soft serve earlier that day. Marie put her finger on Caitlin's round, hot cheek.

"We forgot your bath?"

Though Marie was paid to take care of Caitlin, she often felt that Caitlin was looking after her. Marie always felt guilty for the things she did wrong. Every day there was some small new mistake to make, but so far, there had been no consequences. Marie smiled, feeling Caitlin's sturdy legs lock around her.

"I'm sorry, Caty-cat. You need a bath."

"I want a bath," Caitlin said.

"Good," Marie said. "So do I."

Marie carried Caitlin to the bathroom, passing through the living room to reclaim her drink, momentarily glancing at the TV set. The teenage babysitter, still wielding her knife, promised not to kill the girl if she came out of the closet. Marie continued walking; it was bath time, better than TV. Caitlin made happy gurgling sounds, pounding Marie's back like it was a drum.

Marie ran the water, Caitlin at her side, watching the water fill the tub.

"Bubbles," Caitlin said.

"Yes. Bubbles."

Marie generously poured Ellen's French lavender bubble bath beneath the running faucet. This was a secret between Marie and Caitlin; Ellen thought bubbles were bad for Caitlin's skin. When the tub was almost full, she took off Caitlin's damp white nightgown. Marie took a sip of what still remained of her drink, raised naked Caitlin high into the air from her armpits, and then dipped the bottom of Caitlin's feet in the water.

"Too hot," Caitlin said.

Marie nodded. This was part of their routine. Marie turned off the hot faucet, ran in only cold water, and then she dipped Caitlin back down.

"Better?" Marie said.


Caitlin grinned. Caitlin was happy when she got her way. She seemed to get her way most of the time. She would probably grow up into a disaster of a person, confident, arrogant, entitled--just like Ellen. Maybe, Marie thought, that was not entirely a bad thing.

"Let's try again, kit-cat."

Marie lowered Caitlin back down into the tub. This time all the way in. Soon, she would run more hot water. Marie was able to trick Caitlin this way every time. Caitlin reached for a yellow rubber duck and promptly smashed it over the head of another rubber duck. The tub was filled with bath toys.

"So violent," Marie observed.

Marie took off her clothes and got in, lying back against the opposite end. She reached for her drink. She took a deep sip of whiskey. She closed her eyes.

"Quack," she heard Caitlin say. "Quack quack quack."

It occurred to Marie that she was, at that particular moment in time, happy. Happy. There weren't many times when Marie could remember feeling this way. Swimming in the ocean, during those short, wonderful months in Mexico with Juan Jose. Making love. Taking walks under the stars. Planning their future, together. The babies they wanted to have. Marie had felt her life was what exactly what it was supposed to be.

Marie was happy. It wasn't complicated. All it took was a bath. Caty-bean.

She opened her eyes, looked at naked Caitlin.

"Hi Caitlin," she said.

"This duck is so bad, Marie," Caitlin said.

"Get the duck," Marie said. She felt the lids of her eyes slide back shut.

"Bad duck," Caitlin said.

"Bad," Marie said. "Very bad."

Marie must have fallen asleep in the bath. She had not heard them come in, Ellen and her French husband, but somehow they were standing in the bathroom, fully dressed, staring. Ellen's mouth was open wide. She had those perfect teeth, the result of years of expensive orthodonture.

They were a stylish couple. Benoit Doniel was wearing a dark, striped suit. His blue tie matched the color of Ellen's shimmery dress. 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.

Since she had begun babysitting, Marie had managed to avoid contact with her employer's husband. Three weeks and not a single straight on gaze. Benoit Doniel was not strikingly attractive. But he was sweet and sexy in a funny, self-deprecating kind of way. He wasn't tall; quite possibly he was short. Marie seemed to tower above him. His sandy brown hair fell in his eyes. He had also written Marie's absolute favorite novel in the world, Virginie at Sea, about a suicidal teenage girl who falls in love with an ill sea lion at the zoo.

Marie had kept her ardent love of Benoit's out-of-print book a secret. She had discovered a translated edition of the novel in the prison library. She'd read it again and again. Sometimes she would force herself to wait a day, sometimes two, and then Marie would start all over.

This was the real reason she was there. Why she had come to New York, arrived on Ellen's doorstep, asking for a job, though she had no idea at the time who Ellen had married. It was why she was naked in the bathtub, her body on display for Benoit Doniel's gaze. Marie's happiness wasn't about Caitlin, but the close proximity to Benoit Doniel. French novelist.

Now, at last, craning her neck out of the water, Marie allowed herself to look at him. Really look. She looked and looked. Benoit Doniel had a small mole on his cheek. His bottom teeth were crooked. His eyes were brown. She couldn't have known this, not from the black and white author photo. He was also grinning, grinning at Marie, unmistakably amused with the situation. He could not take his eyes off her. Marie held his gaze. Somehow, Ellen had married this amazing man and now he was staring at Marie. Life had finally presented her with a gift.

"Hello there, Marie," Benoit Doniel said.

"Benoit." Marie rubbed her eyes. It was the first time she had spoken his name out loud. "Hello."

"Mommy and Daddy are home," Caitlin cried.

Caitlin kicked her legs, splashing water out of the tub. Ellen still had not spoken, but Caitlin's flailing seemed to stun her back into motion. She scooped her naked daughter from the tub and hugged her to her chest, soaking her blue dress.

"Jesus Christ, Marie," she said. "I pay you to baby-sit, not to take baths with my daughter, and certainly not to fall asleep in the tub. My God. I can't believe this."

Only then did Ellen notice the glass of whiskey balanced on the soap dish. The situation, at least, was interesting. Marie had no idea what Ellen would do. Ellen believed herself to be control of her life. Marie spread her legs open, not a lot, just enough.

"You're drinking? You're drunk? You were asleep in the fucking bathtub. You could have drowned my daughter. Did you lose all of your brain cells when you were in jail?"

"Down," Caitlin said. "Put me down."

Marie had locked eyes with Benoit Doniel.

There was no doubt at this point that he was staring at her. He pushed the hair out of his eyes to get a better look. Marie couldn't fathom how he had ended up with Ellen Kendall. She couldn't believe he was the same man who had written Virginie at Sea. He could have been writing about her, Marie, at sixteen. He had stolen her innermost thoughts, transcribed them word for word onto the page.

"Get out of the bathtub, Marie."

Marie was surprised to realize that Ellen was still in the bathroom. Marie couldn't be certain, but it seemed as if Ellen was screaming. It seemed as if her voice was much louder than it needed to be.

"Get out of the fucking bathtub. Get out. Get out."

"Mommy said fuck," Caitlin said.

Marie knew that she should get out of the tub. She understood that Ellen was at the point of explosion. But Marie was too invested in imagining the picture she made at that very moment. As if through Benoit Doniel's eyes. As if it was a scene in a movie. Marie was tall. She was thin. She had long, dark hair and surprising large breasts, which had always seemed out of proportion to the rest of her thin frame. Marie decided she would not move, not just yet. She would extend the moment as far as she could take it.

Meet the Author

Marcy Dermansky is a MacDowell Fellow and the winner of the 2002 Smallmouth Press Andre Dubus Novella Award and the 1999 Story magazine’s Carson McCullers short story prize. Her stories have been published in numerous literary journals, including McSweeney’s, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Indiana Review. Dermansky is a film critic for and lives in Astoria, New York.

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Bad Marie 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Fatdog More than 1 year ago
The premise of this book sounded great - nanny takes off to Paris with her employer's husband and child. The reality, however, is less well-developed. I felt like everyone in this book had a less-than-average IQ, including the protagonist. I admit, I kept reading, but only because I thought someone would do something interesting. Instead, it was one poorly thought-out plan after another, and there is no denouement to the story. I read the interview with the author at the end, and it sounds like the whole idea was ripped off from a movie - how is that original writing?! I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, and don't plan on reading any of the author's other works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Bad Marie" has many shortcomings - many of the characters lack depth or simply seem to act as foils to the protagonist - however, "Bad Marie" is worth it in that it truly seeks to depict a woman who is "bad" without truly ever realizing it. Marie is a girl who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and tries to make create the picture-perfect life for herself; even at the expense of other people. Dermansky has crafted Marie, not as a villain, but a woman with desires but without the true understanding of how to fulfill those desires. This novel stays with you long after you finish the last page.
grandebouche More than 1 year ago
Marie is truly a BAD girl -- one who takes little thought of consequences when determining her next action -- yet I couldn't resist turning the pages to find out what she'd do next! Highly recommended. A great way to while away an evening.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Marie spent six years in a medium security prison for abetting her boyfriend; she was convicted on the charges of accessory to murder and bank robbery. Upon release from the pen, Marie's high school friend turned enemy (over a boy, naturally) Ellen the Manhattan executive hires her to be the live-in nanny of her two year old daughter Caitlin; the only job an ex con with no skills can obtain. Ellen's husband French author, Benoit Doniel is very attracted to the tall thin Marie and her to him having read his book while doing time. Starting with a bathtub, they begin a heated steamy affair that culminates with the pair fleeing to Paris accompanied by Caitlin. However, even before they reach France, Benoit proves to be a rat leaving a distraught frightened Marie in the city with the toddler; knowing full well she can never go home. Although over the top of the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower with several unnecessary coincidental spins, Bad Marie is an engaging look at an ex convict. Marie finds prison life with no decisions to make easier on the mind but being a fugitive single mom in a foreign country easier on the soul. Readers will enjoy Bad Marie while wondering whether the anti-heroine will prove heroic when it comes to the well-being of the toddler. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Prefer genre sub genre and combos info text page count date org pub and any grafic violence sex language or any body functions. If you like this kind of book you'll like this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book and its nihilistic themes and characterization. I highly recommend it.
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Tanktisocial More than 1 year ago
The story line had some much potential. Instead, it's an interesting read, well-written, but not much seems to happen. I was glad that it was a short book, especially when I read the ending, which is really inconclusive and leaves a lot up in the air. I would NOT recommend it, unless you have spare time you don't mind wasting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
Marie is just one person with a lot of bad luck that she seems to create herself. Marie spent six years in prison and a childhood friend takes pity on her and hires her as a nanny. But Marie likes her drink, and soon loses that job. She runs off to Paris with her friend's husband and child, and begins to travel the globe with hopes of finding some happiness. Marie may be a wicked person but this novel was a fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Some books grab you right away and others slowly seduce the reader. Marcy Dermansky's novel, Bad Marie, gets you from the first sentence, "Sometimes, Marie got a little drunk at work". Marie is a nanny to her childhood friend Ellen's two-year-old daughter Caitlin. Ellen is a high-powered, hard-charging career woman, and Marie had recently been released after six years in prison for aiding her boyfriend who robbed a bank. Marie loves Caitlin, but when she falls asleep in the bathtub with Caitlin and Ellen and her husband come home, Marie is fired. But not before she seduces the husband, the author of a book that Marie compulsively read in prison. The book, about a suicidal teenage girl who falls in love with a sick sea lion, was a lifeline for Marie, who identified with the girl. Dermansky has created a unique character in Marie; she is all id, with no thought to the consequences of her actions. She never thinks beyond the immediate. It's almost child-like, like Caitlin. I wanted to dislike Marie, and should have, but I found it impossible. I couldn't believe the situations that Marie found herself in, dragging the young Caitlin in tow. This is a book that you will find yourself whipping through to find out what could possibly happen next, yet it is not a plot driven book. It is all about Marie, who is she and how she came to be that way. Water plays a large role in the book; Marie likes to takes baths, but it seems she can never truly cleanse herself. The character in her favorite novel kills herself by walking into the sea. Men fare poorly in this novel. Marie's bank robber boyfriend kills himself in prison; the seduced husband is a weak man, and a fraud. Even the hero movie star turns out to be a cad. Bad Marie is a quick read; the author wastes no words, they are all deliberately chosen to excellent effect. She has said that she was heavily influenced by French films, and the reader can see that influence in this stunning novel. Marie is a role that actresses would kill to play.
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Jessica Gard More than 1 year ago
This was a terrible book about a terrible person.