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Bandit: A Daughter's Memoir

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“Raw, poetic and compulsively readable. In Molly Brodak’s dazzling memoir, Bandit, her eye is so honest, I found myself nodding like I was agreeing with her, sometimes cringing at what she sustained, and laughing—often. I can’t wait to buy a copy for everyone I know.”—Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help In the summer of 1994, when Molly Brodak was thirteen years old, her f “Raw, poetic and compulsively readable. In Molly Brodak’s dazzling memoir, Bandit, her eye is so honest, I found myself nodding like I was agreeing with her, sometimes cringing at what she sustained, and laughing—often. I can’t wait to buy a copy for everyone I know.”—Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help In the summer of 1994, when Molly Brodak was thirteen years old, her father robbed eleven banks, until the police finally caught up with him while he was sitting at a bar drinking beer, a bag of stolen money plainly visible in the backseat of his parked car. Dubbed the “Mario Brothers Bandit” by the FBI, he served seven years in prison and was released, only to rob another bank several years later and end up back behind bars. In her powerful, provocative debut memoir, Bandit, Molly Brodak recounts her childhood and attempts to make sense of her complicated relationship with her father, a man she only half knew. At some angles he was a normal father: there was a job at the GM factory, a house with a yard, birthday treats for Molly and her sister. But there were darker glimmers, too—another wife he never mentioned to her mother, late-night rages directed at the TV, the red Corvette that suddenly appeared in the driveway, a gift for her sister. Growing up with this larger-than-life, mercurial man, Brodak’s strategy was to “get small” and stay out of the way. In Bandit, she unearths and reckons with her childhood memories and the fracturing impact her father had on their family—and in the process attempts to make peace with the parts of herself that she inherited from this bewildering, beguiling man. Written in precise, spellbinding prose, Bandit is a stunning, gut-punching story of family and memory, of the tragic fallibility of the stories we tell ourselves, and of the contours of a father’s responsibility for his children.


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“Raw, poetic and compulsively readable. In Molly Brodak’s dazzling memoir, Bandit, her eye is so honest, I found myself nodding like I was agreeing with her, sometimes cringing at what she sustained, and laughing—often. I can’t wait to buy a copy for everyone I know.”—Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help In the summer of 1994, when Molly Brodak was thirteen years old, her f “Raw, poetic and compulsively readable. In Molly Brodak’s dazzling memoir, Bandit, her eye is so honest, I found myself nodding like I was agreeing with her, sometimes cringing at what she sustained, and laughing—often. I can’t wait to buy a copy for everyone I know.”—Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help In the summer of 1994, when Molly Brodak was thirteen years old, her father robbed eleven banks, until the police finally caught up with him while he was sitting at a bar drinking beer, a bag of stolen money plainly visible in the backseat of his parked car. Dubbed the “Mario Brothers Bandit” by the FBI, he served seven years in prison and was released, only to rob another bank several years later and end up back behind bars. In her powerful, provocative debut memoir, Bandit, Molly Brodak recounts her childhood and attempts to make sense of her complicated relationship with her father, a man she only half knew. At some angles he was a normal father: there was a job at the GM factory, a house with a yard, birthday treats for Molly and her sister. But there were darker glimmers, too—another wife he never mentioned to her mother, late-night rages directed at the TV, the red Corvette that suddenly appeared in the driveway, a gift for her sister. Growing up with this larger-than-life, mercurial man, Brodak’s strategy was to “get small” and stay out of the way. In Bandit, she unearths and reckons with her childhood memories and the fracturing impact her father had on their family—and in the process attempts to make peace with the parts of herself that she inherited from this bewildering, beguiling man. Written in precise, spellbinding prose, Bandit is a stunning, gut-punching story of family and memory, of the tragic fallibility of the stories we tell ourselves, and of the contours of a father’s responsibility for his children.

30 review for Bandit: A Daughter's Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    Edit: 8th of March 2021 I'm absolutely devastated to learn that Molly Brodak has committed suicide. This might seem like a strange or overblown thing to say for someone who didn't know her personally, but her writing resonated with me in ways I can barely even begin to explain. I feel as though I knew a part of her, however small that might be. I'd like to share Molly, written by her husband, Blake Butler. Original Review When I wrote my review for Sixty Years a Nurse and said that what makes or br Edit: 8th of March 2021 I'm absolutely devastated to learn that Molly Brodak has committed suicide. This might seem like a strange or overblown thing to say for someone who didn't know her personally, but her writing resonated with me in ways I can barely even begin to explain. I feel as though I knew a part of her, however small that might be. I'd like to share Molly, written by her husband, Blake Butler. Original Review When I wrote my review for Sixty Years a Nurse and said that what makes or breaks a memoir is not so much what the author has to say but how skilfully they say it, this book is what I meant. Molly Brodak's writing is eloquent and profound. It's entirely clear that she's a poet. Her story is, of course, interesting, but you shouldn't pick it up expecting an action packed ride. Bandit is less blow by blow account and more therapeutic journey - her search for insight about her father and about herself. This was an emotional read for me. Without going into great detail, I've spent a lot of time in and out of therapy trying to understand my parents (and myself, of course!) and it was quite something to see someone else undertaking a similar journey on the page. Don't be daunted by Bandit's eighty-two chapters. Most are only a few pages long and almost every page strikes home in some way. I'd list some of the best quotes, but I'm afraid I'd have to list half the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Griffin Alexander

    Molly's father was the eponymous bandit, but so was she, and she's gone now, passed away, escaped down to the quick of herself and away now from that too. O, Molly—you will be so so missed. Molly's father was the eponymous bandit, but so was she, and she's gone now, passed away, escaped down to the quick of herself and away now from that too. O, Molly—you will be so so missed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Stewart

    My heart is absolutely crushed at the news of Molly Brodak's passing. I was told at the check out counter while buying this book, and her first book of poems. Her memoir is poetic - inspiring - and heart-wrenching. It is about a woman who is tethered to her father despite both of their mistakes in life. Most importantly, it is about family, and how the idea prevails even when the past seems to cloud out our judgments of others. She is brutally honest, about her father, herself, and the events of My heart is absolutely crushed at the news of Molly Brodak's passing. I was told at the check out counter while buying this book, and her first book of poems. Her memoir is poetic - inspiring - and heart-wrenching. It is about a woman who is tethered to her father despite both of their mistakes in life. Most importantly, it is about family, and how the idea prevails even when the past seems to cloud out our judgments of others. She is brutally honest, about her father, herself, and the events of her life. I am terribly sad that we may not be able to see her lovely words on the page again. I hope you read this and discover Brodak's brilliance.

  4. 5 out of 5

    vanessa

    Bandit was a pleasant read, focusing on the author's life memories and the feelings she felt growing up with a father who went to prison for robbing banks. It seemed really cathartic and overall I enjoyed hearing about her life. The audiobook narrator did not do this book justice though - her reading felt overdramatic and too intense. The narrator read it as if Brodak is angry and incredulous... I felt Brodak wanted to convey feelings that were more hazy, bittersweet, and thoughtful. Bandit was a pleasant read, focusing on the author's life memories and the feelings she felt growing up with a father who went to prison for robbing banks. It seemed really cathartic and overall I enjoyed hearing about her life. The audiobook narrator did not do this book justice though - her reading felt overdramatic and too intense. The narrator read it as if Brodak is angry and incredulous... I felt Brodak wanted to convey feelings that were more hazy, bittersweet, and thoughtful.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Molly Brodak’s exceptional new memoir, Bandit, is framed by the story of her father, whose many mistakes in life culminate with an infamous bank robbing spree in Michigan. While her father’s story could easily take up a book of its own, the real reason Bandit succeeds is because Brodak keeps the story close to herself. It’s a memoir, after all. Still, her father, mostly estranged from the whole family, takes up his fair share of text. He’s an outsized figure in almost every way. I would argue, h Molly Brodak’s exceptional new memoir, Bandit, is framed by the story of her father, whose many mistakes in life culminate with an infamous bank robbing spree in Michigan. While her father’s story could easily take up a book of its own, the real reason Bandit succeeds is because Brodak keeps the story close to herself. It’s a memoir, after all. Still, her father, mostly estranged from the whole family, takes up his fair share of text. He’s an outsized figure in almost every way. I would argue, however, that the memoir is Molly Brodak’s attempt to make the man life-sized. These attempts never turn into typed psychotherapy, though. There is catharsis, to be sure, but Brodak brings thoughtfulness and intellect to the questions she seeks to answer. It’s this quest for understanding, the endless attempts to make sense of what was in many ways was a senseless past, that make the memoir unique. She has researched not just her past and her father’s and her family’s, but also the psychology behind gambling addiction and the history of the now-derelict Detroit neighborhood where her father first lived when he came to America as a small child. She confesses her own phase of shoplifting. She visits her father, and writes him, and maintains some small connection to him even while all the rest of their family has necessarily cut him off. This memoir is a search, and the reward for the reader comes from being invited to take part in it. Brodak won’t offer you any solid answers, except to illustrate that when it comes to her father’s life—and his is an extreme example of life in general—no answer will ever be satisfactory. And that, in the end, is OK.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lyd Havens

    "I assumed the danger had passed. The crimes were done, Dad's influence on us was gone—what was left? What is always left: the story. And the story is the most dangerous thing there is." I hate the way I discovered this book: through the author's obituary. But I loved and appreciated this book. Molly Brodak wrote with searing intention about her father, who robbed multiple banks in 1994 and 2009; her older sister, who lived with their father until his first arrest and tried her hardest to still "I assumed the danger had passed. The crimes were done, Dad's influence on us was gone—what was left? What is always left: the story. And the story is the most dangerous thing there is." I hate the way I discovered this book: through the author's obituary. But I loved and appreciated this book. Molly Brodak wrote with searing intention about her father, who robbed multiple banks in 1994 and 2009; her older sister, who lived with their father until his first arrest and tried her hardest to still support him even after being convicted; her mother, who tried to get away from him years before the robberies; and for herself, who was once a young child who never felt entirely comfortable with her father, and then became an adult trying to untangle his lies into a reason for why her family was the way it was. Her prose is poetic, but still honest. And as someone who has their own struggles with their father's actions and legacy, this felt like a necessary read. It is clear from this book and the tributes that I've read that Molly Brodak was an extraordinary person. When I finished Bandit, it was difficult not to ache for her mother, sister and partner. There isn't anything I can say about her death that doesn't feel disingenuous, but I truly am so grateful to have read this book. In a way, I've been searching for it for a while.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    Molly Brodak's BANDIT, a memoir focused on Brodak's fraught relationship with her borderline sociopath bank robber father, is a book that defies categorization and cliché. It's raw, unflinching, and deeply poetic — an unforgettable story written by a bold emerging author. Molly Brodak's BANDIT, a memoir focused on Brodak's fraught relationship with her borderline sociopath bank robber father, is a book that defies categorization and cliché. It's raw, unflinching, and deeply poetic — an unforgettable story written by a bold emerging author.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Hunter

    Amazing, heartbreaking examination of what it's like to be a daughter of a selfish man. I found myself thinking of Nabokov and Proust as I read. So philosophic and true and human. Amazing, heartbreaking examination of what it's like to be a daughter of a selfish man. I found myself thinking of Nabokov and Proust as I read. So philosophic and true and human.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vivienne Strauss

    Sad to just now be discovering Brodak's work posthumously and also that her poetry is out of print. This memoir was heartbreaking on many levels. Sad to just now be discovering Brodak's work posthumously and also that her poetry is out of print. This memoir was heartbreaking on many levels.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    This book is like a deep dive into freezing waters. It's shocking, clarifying, invigorating, upsetting. I picked up this book because of an essay that Molly's husband wrote about her suicide earlier this year. His essay left me breathless. Not the breathlessness of seeing a vast and untouched expanse of nature. No, the breathlessness of struggling to get off the street after getting punched in the stomach, the gravel digging into your hands as you do. Molly had a tragic life. She also had the bra This book is like a deep dive into freezing waters. It's shocking, clarifying, invigorating, upsetting. I picked up this book because of an essay that Molly's husband wrote about her suicide earlier this year. His essay left me breathless. Not the breathlessness of seeing a vast and untouched expanse of nature. No, the breathlessness of struggling to get off the street after getting punched in the stomach, the gravel digging into your hands as you do. Molly had a tragic life. She also had the bravery to look at her life with an unflinching eye. One of the things she discusses in this book is how she distrusted stories. "the story is the most dangerous thing there is. Because the way we talk about what happened becomes what happened" I think that a big part of what makes this book so special is that Molly was a poet first and foremost. She didn't seem to see herself as an author who wrote poetry but a poet who, against her better judgement, wrote a book. Bandit is a memoir about the troubled life of a girl who grew into a poet that distrusts stories. It's not a narrative as much as it is a collection of tightly wound sentences concerning the facts and insights of her life. I'm very glad I read this book. I feel like I understand, just a little bit more, about what it means to be human, what it means to live. What it means to live with pain and longing and anger. Things that we all experience, but that Molly seems to have felt more acutely than most.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mazie Lynn

    It is rare to have the chance to consider the intimate and often painful experience of those who are impacted by the criminal behavior of a loved one. To offer this honesty and perspective to readers is a gift Ms. Brodak provides in this account of her family's life. With over 65 chapters in just 240 pages, the layout of the story is choppy. Without offering a spoiler, I'll simply add that this book is peppered with a certain aspect of her White privilege and I (also White) struggled to believe It is rare to have the chance to consider the intimate and often painful experience of those who are impacted by the criminal behavior of a loved one. To offer this honesty and perspective to readers is a gift Ms. Brodak provides in this account of her family's life. With over 65 chapters in just 240 pages, the layout of the story is choppy. Without offering a spoiler, I'll simply add that this book is peppered with a certain aspect of her White privilege and I (also White) struggled to believe her attempt to express acknowledgement and ownership of that privilege given how her actions ultimately play out. The inequity I found reflected therein (due, in part, to my work in the criminal justice system) frustrated and angered me as I read. That said, eliciting emotional engagement from a reader is certainly desirable in my book. Overall, a good read and a bonus in my book that she is a local author (relative to me!), given that she now resides in my adopted hometown of Atlanta. Disclaimer: according to the book, I share at least one mutual acquaintance with Ms. Brodak.

  12. 5 out of 5

    tinabel

    Part memoir, part sociological analysis, Brodak's writing is whip-smart and self-aware. While three-quarters of the book describe her life—from childhood to adulthood and the subsequent fallout her father's gambling addiction, crimes, and jail time wreaked upon her family—the remaining quarter attempts to dissect her father's motivations and actions in relation to the man she knew growing up, a man who was equally manipulative and self-serving. However, when writing about her father's gambling a Part memoir, part sociological analysis, Brodak's writing is whip-smart and self-aware. While three-quarters of the book describe her life—from childhood to adulthood and the subsequent fallout her father's gambling addiction, crimes, and jail time wreaked upon her family—the remaining quarter attempts to dissect her father's motivations and actions in relation to the man she knew growing up, a man who was equally manipulative and self-serving. However, when writing about her father's gambling addiction and his rationale for committing the robberies (claims of post-Vietnam PTSD and an out-of-body experience), she does not simply speculate or make grand assumptions, but fleshes out her own conjectures using his family history, as well as psychological and sociological theory. It really is amazingly well-researched. Admittedly, I preferred the first section. The poetry in her writing really shines here, and the content is infinitely more sensational, whereas parts of the last quarter were a bit too didactic. Perhaps it could have done with a substantive edit, wherein the sociological analysis was interspersed throughout the narrative? Nonetheless, it was indeed a fascinating read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Delia Rainey

    not all memoirs can achieve this level of emotional clarity and complex, poetic telling, yet accessibly readable. never once did this story feel showy or cheesy or tied-up neatly in a way some mainstream memoirs do, even when describing traumatic life events and trying to understand the acts of her bank-robber father. a true accomplishment of investigating and observation. although the parents in this story are complicated and deeply flawed, molly writes them here with humility and forgiveness t not all memoirs can achieve this level of emotional clarity and complex, poetic telling, yet accessibly readable. never once did this story feel showy or cheesy or tied-up neatly in a way some mainstream memoirs do, even when describing traumatic life events and trying to understand the acts of her bank-robber father. a true accomplishment of investigating and observation. although the parents in this story are complicated and deeply flawed, molly writes them here with humility and forgiveness that often moved me to tears. her writing of her childhood perspective is like none other i have ever read. a child's perspective is respected, sacred, here. i will remember this book forever, mostly for the open spaces of memories: the amish camp for troubled kids, walking through the rubble of her dad's abandoned church and school in a neighborhood of detroit. the way molly describes the interior life. i know molly brodak is no longer with us, and i believe this book was an intentional parting gift, a gift that i hope more people find. i think of the passage of the book where she describes sinking into the earth as she laid in the grass, feeling true peace, alone at last with a deep knowing of endless material.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    What a fun Father's Day read! Recommended by Phoebe Judge on her podcast Criminal, Molly Brodak's Bandit is memoir about fathers and daughters, family secrets, and single-parent homes. Brodak's father, Joe, was a larger-than-life figure in their blue-collar Michigan community, the son of Polish immigrants who was born in a Nazi refugee camp, and then came to the United States as a child. Brodak tells her readers that she did not know much about her father's upbringing when she herself was a child What a fun Father's Day read! Recommended by Phoebe Judge on her podcast Criminal, Molly Brodak's Bandit is memoir about fathers and daughters, family secrets, and single-parent homes. Brodak's father, Joe, was a larger-than-life figure in their blue-collar Michigan community, the son of Polish immigrants who was born in a Nazi refugee camp, and then came to the United States as a child. Brodak tells her readers that she did not know much about her father's upbringing when she herself was a child, but discovered this story when writing to family members in order to gather material for her book. In fact, Brodak did not know much at all about her father. Throughout her childhood, he hid a serious gambling addiction from his family, an addiction that resulted in massive debts that led him to rob eleven banks. This book is a result of Brodak's search for answers about who her father really was and what motivated him to rob all those banks back in the 90s, and then rob another bank when he was released from prison. This moving family memoir made a perfect Father's Day read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gwendalyn

    I'm still listening to this as an audiobook so my review may change as I hear more. Right now I want to review the reader. For my taste she is way over-acting the emotions in the memoir nearly ruining it for me. Already the author is pretty wrapped up in her personal drama but the reader reads it with so much feeling and passion its almost as if she's mocking the writer. Not sure if I'll finish listening, I may have to read it to get an accurate feeling of the actual writing. I am appreciating th I'm still listening to this as an audiobook so my review may change as I hear more. Right now I want to review the reader. For my taste she is way over-acting the emotions in the memoir nearly ruining it for me. Already the author is pretty wrapped up in her personal drama but the reader reads it with so much feeling and passion its almost as if she's mocking the writer. Not sure if I'll finish listening, I may have to read it to get an accurate feeling of the actual writing. I am appreciating the honesty of the writer as well as appreciating simply getting to hear what its like growing up with a compulsive gambler as a father. So many of us go through so much as kids. As I read this I feel respect and awe at our capacity for resilience.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Sotzing

    This unique memoir centers around the author's sociopathic gambling addict father who has spent many years in prison for armed robbery. He's a man barely present in his daughter’s life, even when they are physically together. Can we ever know somebody who deliberately hides so much of themselves behind stories and lies? The author also struggles to understand some earlier-life actions on her part that remind her of her father: she tells of shoplifting sprees in college and the obsessively though This unique memoir centers around the author's sociopathic gambling addict father who has spent many years in prison for armed robbery. He's a man barely present in his daughter’s life, even when they are physically together. Can we ever know somebody who deliberately hides so much of themselves behind stories and lies? The author also struggles to understand some earlier-life actions on her part that remind her of her father: she tells of shoplifting sprees in college and the obsessively thought out behavior involved in making those thefts possible. Did shoplifting help her understand him better or was she just like her own father: a pathological liar and thief?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Susie Barnes

    This book is a lot about how the narrator feels but there isn't much action that seems to cause it or justify it, we get to here about how she feels, why she thinks she feels that way and how the feeling affects her. Maybe that's fine, but it's really not for me. There is no plot development, no character development. It's a true story, so maybe it's just for catharsis. I can't imagine what a publisher was thinking when they decided to publish it. I wish I hadn't wasted my money on it. This book is a lot about how the narrator feels but there isn't much action that seems to cause it or justify it, we get to here about how she feels, why she thinks she feels that way and how the feeling affects her. Maybe that's fine, but it's really not for me. There is no plot development, no character development. It's a true story, so maybe it's just for catharsis. I can't imagine what a publisher was thinking when they decided to publish it. I wish I hadn't wasted my money on it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I loved LOVED this book, couldn’t put it down and was set on giving it 5 stars and then it went on for 60 pages too long and I honestly wasn’t interested in about 50 of those last pages. So I had to give it 4 stars even though I would 100% recommend it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Little

    Especially in light of the recent sad news concerning the author, the story rings out like a great bell. It is a study of family, pain, psychopathy, and what redemption is or might be. I loved this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Meeker

    I won this book in the Goodreads giveaway and I loved it. It was a quick and fascinating read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    audrey

    unfortunately found this book shortly after the author passed. this memoir made me cry for many reasons, and i look up to this woman now as a writer and a human being. she will be greatly missed ❤️

  22. 5 out of 5

    Noreen

    There's something intriguing about unraveling the mysteries of your family history. Luckily, this author still had her parents around to answer some of the questions about why her father chose to rob banks and gamble away his money. A different kind of dysfunctional family, this one. Delving into the thinking behind addictions was interesting, as was her journey to a reasonable adulthood in this very readable memoir. There's something intriguing about unraveling the mysteries of your family history. Luckily, this author still had her parents around to answer some of the questions about why her father chose to rob banks and gamble away his money. A different kind of dysfunctional family, this one. Delving into the thinking behind addictions was interesting, as was her journey to a reasonable adulthood in this very readable memoir.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    holy shit

  24. 4 out of 5

    J.A.

    The poet in Brodak makes this book sing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meg Tuite

    In the first chapter she gives all the facts. Then she writes 'Now to tell my story'. It's brilliant and weaves her father's story with her life, her being, her beliefs. Exceptional! READ IT! In the first chapter she gives all the facts. Then she writes 'Now to tell my story'. It's brilliant and weaves her father's story with her life, her being, her beliefs. Exceptional! READ IT!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kim Field

    My favorite book this year. Her life was fascinating and her writing was stark, quiet, and beautiful.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Catullo

    This is an absolutely gorgeous book. A penetrating story of a daughter trying to understand her family, particularly her ultimately unknowable father. Accomplished in short, meditative chapters and language carefully wrought with a poets touch. It perhaps stretches too far when toward the end when it stretches for some psychological answers to the question raised and dwells on them too long when those answers fail to fully materialize.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie Adams

    Sad story and, ultimately, a horrific outcome for the author. It’s the ongoing sad story that Molly wasn’t able to find adequate mental health assistance and instead became another American tragedy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    A daughter's attempt to vanquish the demons that remain from her father's life of crime. She was ruined by him. A daughter's attempt to vanquish the demons that remain from her father's life of crime. She was ruined by him.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jan Stinchcomb

    An excellent, insightful memoir by a woman of many talents. RIP, Molly Brodak

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