There are many ways of earning the spotlight, and Sheryl Weinstein went an unenviable route: she's famous for sleeping with a guy only slightly more popular than Stalin. Weinstein, the former CFO of the Jewish women's volunteer organization Hadassah, has written a new book, out Aug. 25, about her yearlong extramarital affair with swindler Bernie Madoff, titled Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, and Me. Voyeurs won't be left wanting for dirt; the salacious tell-all chronicles their trysts in graphic, almost vengeful detail. Ironically, the 60-year-old Weinstein, who calls Madoff a "beast" and a "monster," has done more than anyone else to humanize the inscrutable investment scammer, painting him as an insecure man capable of tender courtship and dashing romance. Weinstein, whose family was forced to sell their home after being wiped out in Madoff's scam, spoke with TIME about the origins of the affair, how her family has reacted to the book and what may have motivated Madoff to put together what's considered to be the largest Ponzi scheme of all time.
This must have been a very painful book for you to write. Why did you decide to do it?
The first part was that the investment decisions in my family were my responsibility, so I felt this tremendous guilt and responsibility about what had happened. My motivation was to try to make things better as much as I can, and that sort of meant putting myself out there.
How have your husband and son reacted to the book?
Well, my husband read most of the book. My son hasn't read it, but he has been very loving and very, very supportive. My husband has also been supportive. It's something that happened 16 years ago. [My marriage] was a 21-year relationship; the affair lasted about a year or a year and a half. [So] it wasn't like, "Surprise, I've been having an affair for 20 years." It was more like, "Surprise, I had an affair 15 or 16 years ago." We've really worked hard on our marriage since then, and things have come around, but this really terrible thing happened to us.
The book recounts in great detail the sexual experiences you had with Madoff. The unflattering physical comments you made about him have drawn quite a bit of attention. Why did you decide to focus on that?
In the months following the scandal breaking, I got a lot of questions about what made Bernie tick. [His alleged poor endowment] was an issue for Bernie. I started doing some research, and it can impact the psyche from a very early age. I really did feel that this was a part of Bernie's makeup, a big part of his psyche.
So you think that was one of the main reasons he did the scam?
I think it started with feelings of inadequacy, his inability to accept failure, his fear of failure.
Can you briefly outline how you met and how your relationship developed?
We met through business. I was chief financial officer for Hadassah, and we had a donor from France whose contingency of the gift he was giving, $7 million, was that Bernie had to be the person who handled the investment. That's how we met and how Bernie was introduced to Hadassah.
Why did you decide to call off the affair?
I had never had an affair before. I didn't like being the second person; I didn't like to be hidden. Things like that started to annoy me, and I started to feel that he wasn't ever going to leave Ruth. My relationship with my husband had gotten better. Bernie started having real problems feeling that he was being disloyal to Ruth. In a sense, Bernie's caring for me was more than he had expected. It was putting internal pressure on him, and he just didn't do well under pressure. We were friends, we started out as friends, we had known each other a long time, and we let it evolve back to where it had been.