When Molly Brodak, a prominent writer and university teacher in Atlanta, shot and killed herself on March 8, 2020, at age 39, her husband Blake Butler was shocked and devastated.
“I knew she was depressed, but how could she give up on me?” Butler, 44 and also a writer, told The Post. “How could she give up on us? How could she give up on herself?”
Young and in possession of both talent and good looks, the pair were something of a golden couple in local literary circles.
Blake didn’t realize just how unhappy his wife was, and, as he writes in his gripping new memoir “Molly” (Archway Editions, out now), he would soon learn that there was much more he didn’t know about the woman he loved.
The first time Butler met Brodak, she was in jail. They’d connected over Facebook. Butler didn’t know many other writers in Atlanta and was excited to meet up with Brodak, a poet who lived in nearby Augusta, Georgia and was pretty to boot.
She had long, waist-length hair, hazel-blue eyes, cherubic cheeks. They made a date.
“She called from the back of a cop car,” Butler recalled of their first encounter. “But she wasn’t crying, she was kind of laughing, like, ‘You’re not going to believe what happened!’”
Her roommate’s car, which Brodak had borrowed to drive to Atlanta, had been impounded for expired tags.
Later that night at a bar, she showed him her recent MRI scan and told him she had previously had a brain tumor.
“She was this beautiful woman that came out of nowhere and she seemed to bring chaos with her,” he said. “I was always kind of attracted to women who were wild.”
Brodak shared her troubled childhood. Her father robbed banks to pay off his gambling debts and did two stints in prison. She herself had shoplifted. Her mother was bipolar and left the young Molly largely unattended.
But, she hid other aspects of her past: that she started doing heroin at 12, that she let her older boyfriends burn her with cigarettes, that she was actually married when she first started going out with Butler, who was eager to take care of her.
The pair married in 2017, on top of Arabia Mountain, half an hour from their home. It was an intimate ceremony: the bride and groom and their mothers. They wrote their own vows and read a Czesław Milosz poem. Afterward they threw a party at a museum on Emory University’s campus. Their first dance was Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.”
“It was kind of an adventure,” Butler said.
But, soon after her death, Butler discovered that his wife had hooked up with one of her students just weeks after their wedding.
He was looking through her phone for photos to include in a slideshow at her funeral. That’s when he learned she had cheated on him with numerous men. He found troves of photos of her posing in lingerie and with sex toys, along with videos of her pleasuring herself and saying the names of other men in a baby voice.
Digging deeper, he unearthed emails, with seductive photos, to her students at the various colleges where she taught.
He also discovered a correspondence with a poet who seemingly flew to Tucson to have sex with Brodak during a writing retreat that Butler had paid for. She sent the guy money multiple times, about $1,500 in total.
“As I found out the lies she was hiding, it was a bit of a relief,” Butler said. “It wasn’t that I had failed her. It was that she had built this world of lies.”
He started writing “Molly” about a month after her death.
“I said out loud, ‘I’m going to write a book about you and it’s going to be the best book I’ve ever written.’”
Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that Molly likely had borderline personality disorder. Butler found love again and remarried in 2022.
He and his new wife now live in Baltimore, a surprisingly happy ending to a tragic tale.
“Coming out of my relationship with Molly, I had really learned to think of the world as a place of pain,” he said. “I was certainly not looking for love, I was looking for a way to destroy myself.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
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