An Author Imagines The Post-Ponzi Life of Ruth Madoff

Beach read favorite, author Elin Hilderbrand, dreams up a compelling character based on Bernie Madoff's wife.

By Elin Hilderbrand
elin hilderbrand

I'm not exactly a "ripped from the headlines" kind of writer, and therefore the genesis of my forthcoming novel, Silver Girl, was wholly unexpected. In April 2009, I read an article in the New York Times Sunday Styles section entitled, "The Loneliest Woman in New York." It was an article about Ruth Madoff, and it detailed how since Bernie Madoff had been indicted and jailed for operating a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, Ruth had lost not only all her money, but all of her access and nearly all of her friends. She could no longer get her hair colored at the salon where she'd been going for years; she couldn't order flowers from her florist; she wasn't welcome at her favorite restaurant.


The article struck a note in me; I thought to myself, "Well, if she was in on the Ponzi scheme, this isn't interesting, but if she didn't know about the scam, this is Biblically tragic." I decided at that moment that I wanted to write a novel about a woman who was in Ruth's exact position, and who was innocent.


The one redeeming detail that the article provided was that Mrs. Madoff still had one friend left, a woman she had known since pre-school. And that was the detail I seized on. I decided that my character would also have a friend since the beginning of time that she could turn to, and because it was going to be an Elin Hilderbrand novel, that woman would own a house on Nantucket and whisk my character, Meredith Delinn, away to the island for the summer.


I am in no position to say whether or not Ruth Madoff is innocent or guilty, although in writing Silver Girl, I definitely grew to believe that it's possible that she was/is innocent. I found developing the character of Meredith Delinn and the back story of Meredith and her husband Freddy's marriage, fascinating. It begs the question: How well can we really know another human being? And that is the stuff of riveting fiction.


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First Published June 22, 2011

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