Banditby Molly Brodak
A “raw, poetic and compulsively readable” (Kathryn Stockett) memoir by a woman whose father robbed banks.
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 Bros. 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 learned 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-punch 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.
“In Bandit, Brodak ponders her father’s crimes, his absence, what it means to make money, to take it, to be sick, to heal. A poet by training, Brodak writes with great precision and grace, distilling some memories, expanding others; many of her short chapters feel like prose poems. ‘The facts are easy to say; I say them all the time,’ she writes. That alone is unflinching, but what she does here is even braver: to tackle the truth.” —Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe
“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 Bandit: A Daughter’s Memoir, Molly Brodak wrestles with the question of whether telling a true story is a form of erasing it, or at least changing it beyond recognition . . . She’s written a good book, and with good reason.” —Meghan Daum, The New York Times Book Review
“Atlanta poet Molly Brodak’s soul-searching memoir guarantees you’ll never look at a mug shot the same way . . . With unwavering candor and remarkable grace, Brodak pieces together the years she spent trying to make sense of a volatile, complicated man her family never really knew.” —Gina Webb, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (online)
“Bandit is not simply a story of a father’s criminal history. It’s about a girl and her family, the complicated relationships contained within it, and an inquiry into the sociology behind an addiction to gambling and the reasons why a man would choose to rob banks. Here, Brodak has made an honest effort to understand why her father made the choices he did . . . Beautifully crafted imagery and emotions.” —Sarah Jackman, Bookreporter
“In her supremely readable memoir, Brodak attempts to make sense of her father—an enigmatic, larger-than-life character.” —Tray Butler, Atlanta Magazine
“A prizewinning poet’s account of her convict father and the impact he had on his family . . . Brodak’s story is undeniably compelling, but what makes the book even more fascinating is her in-depth reflection on the gambling habit that drove her father into a life of crime . . . An intelligent, disturbing, and profoundly honest memoir.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“What is marketed as the eminently adaptable tale of a girl who grew up in the shadow gambling, bank-robbing father unexpectedly smokes red with ontological questions about family, self-knowledge, and the suspect act of storytelling . . . What is most mesmerizing is Brodak’s continuously frustrated attempt to truly know her father, and in doing so, finding that she may not quite know herself . . . Arresting lyricism . . . I recommend Brodak’s book wholeheartedly.” —Eric Raymond, Medium
“Brodak’s examination of her relationship with her sociopathic father asks whether we can ever know someone who deliberately hides behind stories and lies . . . The author displays incredible empathy for her father, who has caused her tremendous pain but whom she still clearly loves.” —Derek Sanderson, Library Journal (“Best Memoirs 2016”)
“Molly Brodak’s account of growing up as the daughter of a multiple felon bank robber is one of the most astonishing memoirs I’ve ever read, an unflinching look into the meaning of family, morality, forgiveness. It provides an eye into the more personal side of the criminal mind, asking the biggest questions about what makes us who we are, whether we really know the things we think we know. We’ve all read the true crime accounts of man’s personal depravity, but never has there been one telling this side of the story, at least not one armed with such patience, poetry, humanity. This is a rare one.” —Blake Butler, author of Three Hundred Million
I was with my dad the first time I stole something.
It was a little booklet of baby names. I was seven and I devoured word lists: dictionaries, vocab sheets, menus. I couldn’t ask for this pointless string of names but I couldn’t leave it. I pressed it to my chest as we walked out of Kroger. It was pale blue with the word BABY spelled out in pastel blocks above a stock photo of a smiling white baby in a white diaper. I stood next to Dad, absorbed in page 1, as he put the bags of our food in the trunk of his crappy gold Chevette and he stopped when he saw it. At first he said nothing. He avoided my eyes. He just pressed hard into my back and marched me to the lane we’d left and plucked the stupid booklet out of my hand and presented it to the cashier.
“My daughter stole this. I apologize for her.” The droopy cashier winced and muttered that it was OK. Then stooping over me he shouted, “Now you apologize. You will never do this again.”
The cold anger in his face was edged with some kind of glint I didn’t recognize. As he gripped my shoulders he was almost smiling. I remember an acidic boiling in my chest and a rinse of sweaty cold on my skin, disgusted with my own desire and what it did. I never stole again until I was a teenager, when he was in prison.