When her world came tumbling down, Ruth Madoff was taken completely by surprise. In fact, after her husband, Bernie, revealed that his financial empire had been built on an elaborate fraud, she looked him in the eye, and asked: "What's a Ponzi scheme?"
Claiming that she had "no idea" of the $60bn scam, Mrs Madoff said that she nonetheless blames herself for failing to see through the elaborate lies of the man with whom she had shared her life for half a century.
"I can't explain it. I mean, I trusted him," she said, in her first interviews since the spectacular collapse of the family investment house just before Christmas 2008. "Why would it never occur to me that it wasn't legal? There was nothing that would ever make me suspect."
She initially remained in contact with Bernie, who is now serving a 150-year prison sentence for fraud. "I come from a generation where marriage meant staying put, for better or for worse. This was agonising, but I couldn't abandon the man with whom I spent essentially my entire life."
But Mrs Madoff decided to sever ties a year ago, after the suicide of their son, Mark. She blames herself for his death, saying Mark was deeply upset by the fact that she refused to estrange herself from her disgraced husband.
"I just wish, until my dying day, that I had done what [Mark] wanted," she says. "I don't know if it would have made a difference or not, but... if I had tried, I would have felt a little better. It's the most awful thing that can happen to anybody, the suicide of a child."