Michelle's Reviews > The End of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, a Widow's New Life

The End of Normal by Stephanie Madoff Mack
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's review
Nov 09, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011, memoir
Read from November 08 to 09, 2011

Unique look into a slice of the Madoff world. Stephanie Madoff Mack is the widow of Mark, son of swindler Bernie, who died at his own hand. Her story is heartbreaking but she is almost too generous to her husband, which I understand, but this approach didn't allow the reader to see the full spectrum of her feelings. He tries to kill himself once and eventually succeeds and she paints their marriage as very happy and rosy. There is an entire year she glosses over between the first attempt and the second and you wonder just how bad things got. Everything is sort of held at a distance, which is certainly her prerogative, but if you're writing a memoir know it's going to also distance the readers from the story you’re trying to tell.

You can tell she really struggles with reconciling the family she married into (Bernie and Ruth: devoted grandparents) with the people they really are. She doesn’t really question her husband, though, and I don’t mean in terms of his culpability. As he immediately reported his father upon learning of his transgressions pretty much eliminates his culpability (at least in my mind). But clearly Bernie and Ruth have personality disorders and it seems Mark did too. His suicide attempt (and eventual success) seemed to be entirely based on revenge. Even the very small glimpses she offers into his mindset paint a very twisted story. I don’t mean depression; I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for those who suffer. There is something more here. This memoir did not feel “honest” and “true” in this regard.

Also “The End of Normal” is a bit of a strange title given their life was never normal. They lived in a $6 million apartment (gifted by Bernie). Jon Bon Jovi is a neighbor. They have multiple houses in multiple tony neighborhoods. She never really acknowledges that they didn’t exactly live life free and clear of some of the benefits of Madoff’s scheming. Regardless of what Mark knew, he still worked for his father. He owed Bernie $5 million.

I do love how close she is to her parents. This bodes very well for the future of her children (and her!) This book is no work of great literary feat, but it is very engaging. I did love the line where she says it’s much harder to be sad than angry. So true. I think most anyone would find this book interesting, if they understand it’s lots of privileged people never really acknowledging the privilege.

I do have to say it's crazy that it's been less than a year since he killed himself. They really rushed to get this book out, particularly in light of how slow the publishing world works. I think the perspective of time might've made this book feel less "OMG my husband was the most amazing man." Still, though, a solid read.
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