Stephanie Madoff Mack Book Review: ‘The End of Normal’

 
on October 25 2011 3:17 PM
Bernie Madoff
Owners of the New York Mets baseball team have agreed to pay $162 million to settle a lawsuit by the trustee seeking money for victims of Bernard Madoff's fraud. Reuters

Stephanie Madoff Mack said she wrote her memoir The End of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life so that her late husband would have a voice and their children would have something to remember him by. Those who have followed the Bernie Madoff scandal certainly know the author's story: She was the wife of the convicted Ponzi schemer's older son, Mark Madoff, who committed suicide in December 2010, two years after the scandal broke.

There are times when the book reads almost like a romance novel, were it not for the sinister undertone and unhappy ending. We meet Mack (she had had her last name altered for privacy after the scandal with her husband's approval) as a young woman being romanced by a handsome, wealthy and agreeable man 10 years her senior. The possibility of a happy future together is evident by their fourth date, a black-tie event of the Security Traders Association of New York.

Mack wrote: When the big night arrived, I ended up missing the whole cocktail hour because I had to work. Mark sent a Madoff driver named Clive to pick me up in one of the firm's black BMWs and whisk me to the Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue, and I arrived just as dinner was about to begin. I nearly fainted at the sight of Mark in a tux, he looked so gorgeous. Next thing I knew, Mark was called up to the microphone to make a speech. I'd had no idea he was the STANY president. Flushed with pride, he kissed me when he sat back down. It was our first kiss.

Mack defended her late husband, saying that while he and his brother did work for their father, they were given their own separate market-making division to run, which would earn them admiration. By their forties, Andy was restless, but Mark still loved working side by side with his brother after more than twenty years, and he enjoyed his work without becoming obsessive about it, she wrote, claiming the thought of her husband being involved in his father's Ponzi scheme never crossed her mind.

But Mark would still take his own life, overwhelmed by the destruction of his 20+ year career, his disillusionment with the father he looked up to, his alienation from his brother and mother, and the legal threats hanging over his head. I watched my decent, gentle husband be consumed by the same soul-searing rage I felt for Bernie, along with a sorrow that was a hundred times worse, Mack wrote. He seemed to be doing relatively well before taking his life (he had attempted suicide before), but went over the brink while his wife, daughter and mother-in-law were on a trip to Disneyland.

Mack does take a few unnecesary shots against her in-laws that have nothing to do with the scandal, particularly with Ruth Madoff. She mentions the older woman's obsessive diet and exercise habits, as well as her cosmetic surgeries and enhancements. She also mentions how Ruth and her sister found out after their mother's death that they may have been born out of wedlock. Ruth and Joan said they still hadn't figured out exactly what had -- or hadn't -- happened, Madoff Mack wrote.

Still, the story is a sad one.

One of the most poignant scenes in the narrative occurs right after Mack learned of her husband's suicide. She was sitting in an airport with her mother and daughter, waiting to take a plane back to New York City. News of my husband's suicide was on the TV mounted in front of us, she wrote. I turned Audrey around on my lap and distracted her with a computer game on my iPad.

Mack's book does offer a bit of intrigue. She hints at being concerned over her brother-in-law's alleged deepened interest in her and her children after the suicide. Andy popped in and out of our lives like a cameo player who had been handed the wrong script, Mack wrote. He would ask on short notice to see the kids, then come up to the apartment and sit at the dining room table or on the fireplace ledge just watching us, saying little or, sometimes, nothing. I felt as if we were under observation.

Madoff Mack said she later learned via a news story that Andrew's fiancée, Catherine Hooper, would be coming out with a book. The book, Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family, was conceived by Hooper and written by author Laurie Sandell, The New York Times reported in September. It will be released on Oct. 31.

Andy's scurrying about to ensure my silence makes sense, Madoff Mack wrote. His sudden new devotion to his brother's younger children and his odd visits also make sense: We were being observed. I had been played by a Madoff again.

Mack comes off as a woman who has found herself in over her head at times over the scandal, the ensuing mess, and her husband's suicide. However, unlike her late husband, she is staying afloat. But while she begins a new chapter in her life, her mention of the upcoming book leaves the impression that her troubles may not be over. This could be an incorrect conclusion, but whoever says that you marry a person and not their family is clearly wrong. When this woman married one Madoff, she married them all.

 

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