Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

by Adrienne Brodeur

Hardcover, 2019




Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2019), Edition: 1st Edition, 256 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. HTML: A NATIONAL BESTSELLER "Exquisite and harrowing." â??New York Times Book Review "This electrifying, gorgeously written memoir will hold you captive until the last word." â??People NAMED A BEST FALL BOOK BY People * Refinery29 * Entertainment Weekly * BuzzFeed * NPR's On Point * Town & Country * Real Simple * New York Post * Palm Beach Post * Toronto Star * Orange Country Register * Bustle * Bookish * BookPage * Kirkus* BBC Culture* Debutiful A daughter's tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity. On a hot July night on Cape Cod when Adrienne was fourteen, her mother, Malabar, woke her at midnight with five simple words that would set the course of both of their lives for years to come: Ben Souther just kissed me. Adrienne instantly became her mother's confidante and helpmate, blossoming in the sudden light of her attention, and from then on, Malabar came to rely on her daughter to help orchestrate what would become an epic affair with her husband's closest friend. The affair would have calamitous consequences for everyone involved, impacting Adrienne's life in profound ways, driving her into a precarious marriage of her own, and then into a deep depression. Only years later will she find the strength to embrace her lifeâ??and her motherâ??on her own terms. Wild Game is a brilliant, timeless memoir about how the people close to us can break our hearts simply because they have access to them, and the lies we tell in order to justify the choices we make. It's a remarkable story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were… (more)


(93 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member whitreidtan
Other people's lives are endlessly fascinating, especially the hidden pieces of those lives. One of the reasons we read is to inhabit these lives so very different from ours, at least for a a little time. Adrienne Brodeur's memoir about her glamorous mother Malabar, who entrusts fourteen year old
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Rennie with the knowledge of Malabar's affair with her husband’s married, best friend, making Rennie both confidante and co-conspirator, and the effects of this knowledge on her life and relationships, offers the reader a life it is impossible to look away from.

Brodeur has written an astonishing memoir of mothers and daughters, dysfunction, complicity, lies, and secrets. She looks back, not only at the obviously inappropriate revelations of her mother but also at her own deep desire to be her mother's ally, the favorite, to be special, the one who would aid and abet her mother in this affair despite her love for her stepfather. She presents the reality of her relationship with her mother and her knowledge of this affair as she remembers it, not letting her mother off the hook for her questionable decision to include her young teen in her deception but not letting herself off the hook either for the thrill she felt in safeguarding this knowledge. Her writing is self-reflective and honest. She knows she's writing of rich people behaving badly but she embraces that without apologizing for it.

Without excusing her selfish and toxic behavior, Brodeur tries to convey the magnetism and appeal of her mother but she's not entirely successful. And her own complicity can easily be forgiven when she's a child but the reader will find it harder to understand her loyalty to this secret once she is older and it threatens her own relationship and marriage. This is a perfect book for book clubs who can delve into the very real, even if it reads like fiction, impact Brodeur's mother had on her life and in forming the person, wife, and mother she has grown into being and the rocky journey of self-discovery that got her there.
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LibraryThing member sriddell
A Mother/Daughter story where the narcissistic mother turns her 14 year old daughter into her confidante and secret keeper, while the mother carries on an affair with her husband's best friend.

I hadn't realized it was a memoir when I picked it up. The "true story" aspect made this a pretty sad
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story. It becomes clear in the latter part of the book that this memoir was written as a catharsis for the now-adult daughter.
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LibraryThing member carolfoisset
I enjoy memoirs and this book was a well written riveting tale.
LibraryThing member EllenH
While it took me awhile to really get beyond not being fond of the characters, I ended up really involved in this daughter's well written, interesting, and honest look at her relationship with her very self centered Mother.
LibraryThing member muddyboy
Let me state that generally I don't like memoirs because they are just ego enhancing to the author or the author needs a catharsis. This one is in the cathartic category but it is so well written and objective that I still liked it a lot. The signature event of her life is that at the age of
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fourteen the author is used by her mother as a cover for the affair she is having with the husband of a couple that they life long friends with. They keep the secret for years but eventually it comes out with many repercussions .A very intriguing family dynamic.
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LibraryThing member jfaltz
a compelling read
LibraryThing member TheAmpersand
As with many midlife memoirs recounting unusual -- or unusually difficult -- childhoods the real attraction here isn't the author but the author's hypnotically awful family. In "Wild Game," Adrienne Brodeur's wealthy, boozy, unbelievably self-centered mother Malabar owns the spotlight. Well, her
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and everyone she knows: a reviewer here has suggested that this book a portrait in entitlement and privilege, and while those words get thrown a lot these days, the social milieu that the author grew up in is still hard to believe. Her family, and mother's lover family, comes off as some awful mixture of New England old money and preposterous, kitschy wealth that might as well have come straight from a rerun of "Dynasty." Preening, haughty, spendy and often drunk, these people are, to be blunt, awful. How much you enjoy "Wild Game" might depend on how well you're able to tolerate them.

This might be especially true because throughout most of this memoir, Brodeur seems to want to recount events as she experienced them. This gives the book a certain immediacy, but in these parts of the book, the author lacks any sort of a critical perspective on what happened to her. Psychologically speaking, she seems to have sleepwalked through much of her childhood and adolescence, and seems shocked when her first boyfriends inform her that few people would call the way that she grew up normal. Interestingly enough, a lot of her psychological trauma seems to have manifested itself physically: the author suffered from stress-induced stomach complaints from a very young age. The last third of the book, in which the author finally puts some distance between her and her mother and succeeds in as a person, albeit belatedly, is probably this memoir's strongest. There's more bad behavior from Malabar, of course, but the author's account of how she used literature, friendship, and a not-inconsiderable amount of personal courage to grow into the person she wanted to be is downright inspiring, and I'm not just saying that as a person over forty who still lives with his folks. Brodeur's writer's voice is strong and likable thought "Wild Game", but it's only in its last few pages that it seems to match the person being described in its pages.

How much you enjoy "Wild Game" will also likely depend on how many midlife memoirs you've read and how much you like the genre. Though it's well written, there isn't anything revelatory here in terms of form or structure, and, in certain ways, this book is considerably less shocking than some of the titles that have preceded it. Brodeur questions her own authorial choices in its epilogue, which is nice to see, but I think that "Wild Game" might have stood out a bit more from the other, similar memoirs if its focus had been more sociological and less personal. Money, as they say, can't buy you happiness, but this book suggests that it might not be able to get you taste or shame, either. Recommended to readers interested in real-life tales of messy lives, but probably not an essential read.
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LibraryThing member marquis784

October 15, 2019
Rec’d Book 9/22/19
Bookish First Giveaway
Nonfiction, memoir, ARC
Houghton Mifflin

I received a complimentary copy of this ARC from Houghton Mifflin and Bookish First Giveaway in exchange for an unbiased review.

Andrienne “Rennie” Brodeur shares her story growing up too soon and
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trying to navigate life within her dysfunctional family. As if life as a teen isn’t confusing enough Adrienne “Rennie” is burdened with keeping her mother’s secrets. The eccentric Malabar is a professional chef and remarried Charles after her divorce. Sadly, he has a stroke shortly after they married which changed the dynamics between the couple.

Although growing up in an affluent family in Boston and vacationing on Cape Cod, life was anything but stable. Her mother loved to entertain and be the object of attention with grand elaborate meals and parties. Her parents spent a lot of time socializing with Ben and Lily who were friends with Charles. Rennie and her brother Peter were educated in private schools while they continued to live in Charles’ mansion until it finally sold.

As much as Rennie feels guilt about keeping her mother’s affair with Ben a secret, she also relishes in the special attention she gets from her mother. It takes many years for her to acknowledge the relationship with her mother was inappropriate. But, as Rennie gets older and tries to find her own way independent from her mother she discovers more family secrets.

The lack of structure and parental guidance leads her to take a gap year in Hawaii. With unreliable family forgetting to reserve a condo for her, she quickly needs to fed for herself. She finds works at Pearl Factory in Kaanapali in Maui Village where she rents a studio apartment. Soon she becomes involved with Adam who was a 25 year old high school drop out selling weed to tourists when he wasn’t working with his father and brother at the printing factory.

This is a moving memoir in which the author explores her past to make sense of her present. Once she distances herself from her mother’s selfish, dysfunctional thinking she begins to accept herself as a unique individual who is not responsible for her mother. She begins to live life for herself with many pitfalls along the way. By falling down and getting back up she developed a strength she didn’t know was possible.
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LibraryThing member pivic
I noticed how his gaze kept returning to my mother throughout the meal. My mother seemed to delight in these glances, giving equine tosses of her head and laughing readily.

I didn’t know much about this memoir when I picked it up. It started off by describing the author’s 14-year-old self in a
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straight-forward and unabashed way, closely to coming off as boring, before the author weighed in with this:

“Rennie, wake up. Please wake up.”

Just go away, I thought.

“Sweetheart. Please. I need you.”

At this, I opened my eyes. Malabar was in her nightgown, her hair mussed. I sat up.

“Mom, what’s wrong? Is everything okay?”

“Ben Souther just kissed me.”

I took in this information. Tried to make sense of it. Couldn’t. I rubbed my eyes. My mother was still there beside me.

“Ben kissed me,” my mother repeated.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing boring about this book. The author—or her editor—has a keen sense where cutting away chaff is concerned. I almost wish that I’d have access to the initial draft of this book, as the author’s style and sense of keeping things curt is both noteworthy and desirable; I wish more writers had the author’s good sense (and, possibly, editor).

“He wants me to meet him in New York next week. He has a board meeting—some salmon thing—and Lily plans to stay in Plymouth. I don’t know what to do.”

We were lying on our backs, heat emanating from our bodies.

“What do you think I should do?”

We both knew this was a rhetorical question. Malabar was a planner. She had already made up her mind.

“I’m going to need your help, sweetie,” she said. “I need to figure out how to do this. How to make this possible.”

I lay as still as a corpse, unsure of what to say.

That a mother decides that her infidelity is something brilliant to confide in her 14-year-old daughter is incomprehensible to all; that’s not the interesting bit, though. To me, it’s both how this affects the author’s relationship with her close family and how it affects her growing up.

This book is written by a grown woman in her fifties. She’s able to look back over life with both aplomb and integrity and simultaneously evoke both the horrors and closeness that her mother’s immediate unveiling of her infidelity brings.

More than one time during my reading of this book did I feel disgusted and angry at a parent who’d unloaded a horrendous thing like that onto one of her children.

Still, the author doesn’t handle that as Donald Trump would; she reports it almost as stoically as a child would at that time; just as she did as a child, I suppose. There are analysis and straightforward telling of the facts that made me feel they were straight from the mind of her childish id.

To cover for Malabar’s affair, I would tell Charles one thing, my father and Peter another, my friends something else, attempting to explain either my mother’s absences or my own.

All families have secrets. When your mother is self-oriented almost ad infinitum is a larger-than-life character, and only wants you to confide in while cheating on her husband, everything becomes something that the secrets converge on.

“Ben is like a wild animal,” my mother said in a way that made me understand that we’d left the topic of gardening.

“The man needs a jungle.”

The book is not only about the author’s mother; it’s also about her realising herself, becoming an individual in her own right while developing her own life, and then, as we all do, circle into her mother and father as we all do. The book displays this in a near-Ingmar Bergman state of affairs without turning overly dramatic.

I won’t say more about what goes on in this book, but I will strongly recommend it. The language is that of a seasoned writer who has turned over this, the story of herself and her family, for a long time before delivering it to the public in book form.

This is a laudable effort and deserves to be read by everybody who likes memoirs, especially well-written ones. It’s cathartic about the overt and slowly and elegantly reveals how a woman can grow up and evolve into her own while hiding and constantly revealing her past.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
A schadenfreude soap opera that reminds me of watching Dallas when I was a kid or Tiger King on Netflix last night. Brodeur's mother marries a rich and sickly bookworm and some years down the road has an affair with his vigorous and vibrant best friend. Fourteen-year-old Brodeur is recruited as
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confidante and accomplice, aiding and abetting the affair's cover-up. Things get even a little more twisted before they get better . . . or at least as good as they're going to get. Outrageous and sad.

Side note: It seems weird for the author to go to the trouble to use pseudonyms for everyone in the book and then basically out them all in the Acknowledgments. What was the point of that? A legal department thing?
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LibraryThing member pomo58
Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur is a memoir that reads almost like a novel, albeit one with a lot of dysfunction involved.

I'll start with the writing. It took a while for me to get into the flow of the writing. I was into the book immediately but her style took me a
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little while to adapt to. Once I did, I came to think that it worked very well here. A lot of detail yet at the same time it almost seemed skeletal. I know, that doesn't make sense, and I should probably find a better way to express it, but I won't. What I want to say to a prospective reader is this: if you don't immediately feel like you're in the flow of the book, give it a little more time, I think you'll be rewarded.

There are many instances where it is easy to just judge and step away from trying to understand these people. Understanding does not require approval, it simply requires the basic senses of compassion and empathy. That said, you will still have many moments where you shake your head and just think, 'are you kidding me.' But many of those moments actually make sense if you have tried to understand rather than judge. With the mother's personality her actions do make sense. Dysfunctional, yes, but to a dysfunctional person it is logical. And a child, well, to feel close to a parent who might otherwise be hard to be close to is worth a lot of compromise. Does that make it right? That isn't the point here, the point is that it happened and it had long term effects.

I found myself anxious to find out what would happen next while also hoping it would not keep going. I was particularly impressed by the way the story is told from the adult's reflective viewpoint but at times almost with the child's perspective.

I would recommend this to readers of memoirs and especially those who enjoy reading about how someone comes to terms with a past that is, to put it mildly, questionable. Also any readers who like nonfiction that reads like fiction will enjoy this.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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LibraryThing member akblanchard
In this dramatic memoir, author Adrienne Brodeur tells the story of her enmeshed relationship with her domineering, manipulative mother Malabar. When Adrienne is only fourteen years old, Malabar embarks upon a love affair with the male half of a friendly couple. Malabar makes her teenage daughter
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her confidante and co-conspirator. Things get even more complicated (if such were possible) when Adrienne falls in love with her mother's lover's adopted son.

Malabar and her lover remind me of this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: “They were careless people...they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

This memoir is a beautifully written testament to the corrupting powers of entitlement and privilege. Well worth reading.
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LibraryThing member tangledthread
This memoir begins with Mary Oliver's poem about receiving a box of darkness. I think the poem was the perfect beginning to the book. It gives the reader the sense that something dark is coming and the author acknowledges that darkness. But it also portends that there is some resolution in the
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The story is about a mother, Malabar, who inflicts a horrendous duty on her 14 yo daughter, Adrienne, by making her an intimate to the mother's adulterous affair with her husband's best friend.
The story delivers a salient truth:
It's impossible to go through life without injury...physical, psychic, emotional. The important thing is what you do with that injury. One can work to resolve the issues and learn from them, developing a sense of resilience. Or one can draw into oneself and nurse the injuries for a lifetime. I think Malabar and Adrienne demonstrate those two responses.

It would seem that this book would invite a lot of projection on the part of the reader, especially for women with a complicated mother/daughter relationship in their lives.

I was impressed by Adrienne's ability to empathize with her mother. However, the story about her daughter in the epilogue made me wonder if she had perhaps over compensated a bit.
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LibraryThing member Jonez
3.25 - 3.50

I must admit, I'm pretty sick of reading stories (fictional or otherwise) of bored rich people behaving badly because the lack of want has left room for trivial dramas. With that said, after I let out a sigh realizing where this was all headed, I kept with it. This is a testament to
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Brodeur's writing. Her turn of phrase and painstaking writting is what kept me reading, but it was the palpable anxieties over the material that lept off the page and laid somewhere in me deeply felt. It is compulsively readable, even when it stretches, hits a snag and loses pace, or just plain gets uncomfortable to read.
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LibraryThing member LynnB
I enjoyed this memoir. It tells the story of a 14-year-old girl drawn into her mother's affair. She becomes her mother's confident, and often helps to cover up her mother's meetings with her lover...who is her husband's best friend. So, we read about complicated mother-daughter relationships (the
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mother's relationship with her own mother is no less dysfunctional) and how that influenced the daughter's choices and her life. Well written, very engaging....sometimes scary to read.
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LibraryThing member JanEPat
I like to cook and I'm interested in relationships, so this book satisfied both. It's very self-centered, hence only 4 stars, but hey, it's a memoir. It's set in Massachusetts, my home turf, too. It kept me interested, and I read fast when it got too slow. The mother crossed boundaries she
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shouldn't have, so the book is not for everyone.
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LibraryThing member rmarcin
Wild Game is a memoir of Adrienne, who was her mother's confidante in an affair. Malabar, the mother, woke Adrienne at age 14 to tell her of the start of an affair between herself and Malabar's husband's best friend, Ben. Malabar also enlists Adrienne to help Malabar and Ben carry on this affair
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for about 10 years. Adrienne becomes a player in this love story and it is manifests itself in depression and being under her mother's thumb for too long.
I was looking forward to reading this memoir, due to all the advance praise for it, but after reading it, I just felt that it was all about the rich not caring who they hurt. The families lived very wealthy and carefree lives on Cape Cod and in NYC, and carried on an affair in front of their spouses, and involved a young daughter in this lie. It made me sick to think of a mother who would do this to her daughter, only caring about her own happiness, and not caring what effect it would have on the daughter. I felt sorry for Adrienne, but I also had a touch of "poor little rich girl" feeling that went along with it.
I also felt that it was odd that all the names in the book would be changed, and then the author names each person in the acknowledgement section of the book.
Thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss.plus for a free reader copy, any opinions on the book are my own.
#WildGame #AdrienneBrodeu
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LibraryThing member bobbieharv
Devoured this book. So many memoirs feel undigested, as though the author is writing and trying to process at the same time, but Wild Game felt cathartic, done. I couldn't put it down; even read it during the day. It felt like a novel, and will make a great movie. Only small quibble is that some of
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the descriptive passages, those that didn't serve to move the plot along, felt a bit clunky - as though, perhaps, they were taken from adolescent diary entries written at the time.

It took a lot of courage to write this book.
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LibraryThing member clp412
This book reads like it is fiction, and it is crazy to think that it is a true story. I had to keep reminding myself of the fact that this was someone's childhood. I enjoyed this memoir because it doesn't get hung up on unimportant details or isn't a stream of conscience read like other
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biographies/memoirs I have read. I am so glad that Adrienne (Rennie) was able to reflect on Malabar's needs and although she was still pulled into secrets that inevitably hurt others, I couldn't put this book down! I loved the setting and all of the aspects about cooking. I can almost imagine what the kitchen and cottage smelled like when Malabar was cooking. I love that Adrienne reflected on how kind her people in her life (her stepfather, Charles and Lilly) was to her while she was growing up as well! I understand the hype and I am so glad that I read this book! Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing and the author for the opportunity to read this fabulous book via Netgalley!
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LibraryThing member paroof
Reminded me of The Glass Castle, but I see that comparison has been made already. It was a fairly interesting story, in a can't-look-away car crash kind of way, and the author wrote beautifully. But still, it is at its essence, another Mommy Dearest story. It's a family story made for daytime
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television like Dr. Phil. But then it's also someone's truth, I guess. And if baring your soul rids you of your demons, well good for you. But is it good for me? I need to reevaluate why I read memoirs.
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LibraryThing member JillRey
It is not often a memoir sucks you so far in that you fail to come up for air until you have turned the last page. In fact, I can only remember one other occurrence of this and that was The Glass Castle, which happens to be one of my FAVORITE books. Given that, it is unsurprising this book was an
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instant favorite for me.

Adrienne is just 14 years old when the direction of her life is altered by her mother waking her to inform her she'd just kissed Adrienne's step-father's best friend. The next decade is filled with Adrienne assisting her mother in her elicit affair as Adrienne adores being within her mother's magnetic orbit.

The mother-daughter relationship captured within this book is both engaging and disturbing.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
This memoir opens with a startling event: the 14 year old narrator's mother bursts into her room to share that she has been kissed by her husband's best friend. That a parent would seek out a young teenager to be her confidante and co-conspirator in adultery shows us what the mother, Malabar, and
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the daughter, Adrienne (Rennie) are made of. The writing is excellent here - the pacing, the plot, Rennie's description of her own excitement and shame, and her subsequent bout with depression - and it's almost enough to feel that Rennie's complicity is justified. But not Malabar's - she is also the daughter of a horrorshow mother - which still can't vindicate her selfish actions, nor can the divorce of Rennie's parents and the early death of their first child. I chose this book because I heard the author at a local reading in Beverly, MA, supporting her wonderful new novel Little Monsters, and you too should read them as a satisfying set.
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1328519031 / 9781328519030
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