I just finished reading The Best of Friends by Mariana Pasternak, the new tell-all memoir about Martha. The author was friends with Martha for 20 years before testifying against her during her trial. The best part of the book was “seeing” inside Martha’s houses and reading about the trips she takes. It is a rare glimpse inside Martha’s real life. I enjoyed reading about how she bought the different houses, how they are furnished and decorated. The trips she took with the author were simply stunning and things most of us could only dream of doing.
I had some problems with the book. At times, the author talks about how she didn’t like things Martha did or felt that Martha made unsafe choices for her children, yet she did nothing. If someone encouraged my child to go water skiing on a river filled with piranhas, I would definitely step in and stop it and make a big, big fuss afterwards. Mariana also took many loans from Martha over the years so that she could afford to go on Martha’s extravagant trips. I have the travel bug too, so I understand the urge to want to go to wonderful places, but I’m pretty sure I would not take out loan after loan from a friend to do so (and then complain when interest is added to the loan!). It seemed to me that the author was living a life beyond her means at times – doing things like taking on multiple mortgages, but then building a beach house at the same time. No one can keep up with Martha’s lifestyle and I don’t know why she thought she could.
The book tries to say she and Martha were the closest of friends, yet at the same time she expresses her reservations about Martha and her distrust of her. The two don’t quite go together in my mind. Then there is the troublesome tale that leads up to the trial. The author claims total ignorance of what Martha was doing, yet at the same time acknowledges she had a feeling it had to be breaking some laws. Again, you can’t have it both ways. Then she insisted for months she could not remember if Martha commented about what her broker did, then at trial, offers convoluted reasoning for why she eventually said Martha did comment on this. Maybe she was one very confused woman, but it didn’t quite ring true for me.
Getting back to Martha though, the author talks about Martha candidly in ways that match things others have said. She describes Martha as cold, calculating, demanding, selfish, cruel, yet also says she desperately was seeking love. I don’t know how you get to where Martha is without being driven, tough, and calculating. She’s always been portrayed as cold and difficult and from watching her closely for a year for this project, I think those attributes peek through in her public persona and must be quite obvious when you know her on a personal level. The author doesn’t talk much about Martha’s incredible knowledge, her dead-on sense about many things, and her truly stunning business acumen, which I think are also key attributes of Martha.
I enjoyed seeing inside Martha’s world, even if I took some of it with a grain of salt. There’s not much mention of Martha’s daughter Alexis and I would have liked to know more about her. If you want to see behind the scenes in Martha’s life, you’ll enjoy this book.