- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
I was angry at just about everybody when I finished reading Stephanie Madoff Mack’s “The End of Normal: A Wife’s Anguish, A Widow’s New Life” (Plume paperback, 272 pages, $16.00).
Mack — she and her husband changed their last name after Bernie Madoff’s multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme became public — is the widow of Mark Madoff, son of the disgraced Wall Street icon. They just added an “M” to “ACK” — the call letters for Nantucket Airport, on one of their favorite vacation spots. Mark Madoff Mack hanged himself on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest, leaving Stephanie to raise her children as a single mother.
Let me count the ways I’m pissed off at everybody:
Naturally I was angry at Bernie Madoff, whose criminal behavior caused grief and death to people who trusted him with their money. His two sons, Andy and Mark, get points for turning him in, but I don’t see how they couldn’t have known about his activities while working in a separate business in the same Lipstick Building at 885 Third Avenue in Manhattan that housed Bernie’s fictitious fund. Stephanie insists — and the evidence is strong in her favor — that the two brothers didn’t have a clue about Bernie. Still, they were drawn into the scandal and Mark became despondent and took his life.
I was also angry at Mark and Stephanie and their privileged life, vacationing on St. Barth’s, the Hamptons, Key West, the Seychelles, houses in Manhattan, Greenwich, CT and Nantucket. Stephanie describes her life before Mark as “comfortable,” but it seems to this 99 percenter to be much more than that, with her growing up in a luxury apartment on the East Side of Manhattan and attending private schools. Call me judgmental — more than a few people have — but her life was privileged beyond the comprehension of “normal” people.
Andy Madoff went on with his life, so I’m wondering why Mark Madoff had to kill himself. Yes, I’m angry with this handsome, gifted man, who married the beautiful Stephanie (he had been married before, with two children) and was obviously deeply in love with her.
Most of all, I’m angry with the culture of greed that has permeated this country. I’ve covered business and real estate in my 46 years in journalism and what I’ve seen and reported on often disgusts me. I’m angry at the Clinton Administration that spurred Congress in 1999 to repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, that separated commercial banks from risky “investment” banks. Like many commentators with far more knowledge than I possess, I want Gramm-Leach-Bliley repealed and an even stronger Glass-Steagall installed. I want to see pay caps for executives in any institution that gets federal funding — and that’s just about all of them. If they insure deposits with FDIC — part of the Glass-Steagall Act that was retained — then they should be subject to limits on greed. I want people — who don’t have the common sense of our beautiful cat, Greta — to stop falling for Ponzi schemes: If it sounds too good to be true, it is! I’m against the government telling everybody they should be a homeowner — one of the driving forces behind the housing meltdown, and a flawed policy of both political parties.
We shouldn’t put up with people like JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon losing billions of dollars and having a Senate Banking Committee fawn over him as if he were undergoing a job interview. Yes, this happened and was reported everywhere, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
All this said, Stephanie Madoff Mack has crafted a touching love story memoir that will appeal to many readers. Putting my judgmental hat aside, I grieve with her over her loss. Her children have been estranged from their paternal grandparents and will suffer because of this. Despite the name change, the children may be bullied in school, given the low level of human decency that prevails today.