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chanel bonfire wendy lawless memoir

People magazine gives CHANEL BONFIRE a glowing 4 star review in the February 4th issue! Click here to read.

The January issue of O includes a glowing review of CHANEL BONFIRE! Click here to read.

CHANEL BONFIRE was reviewed in the February/March issue of Bust. Click here to read.

CHANEL BONFIRE was included in the January issue of Reader’s Digest. Click here to read.

CHANEL BONFIRE was featured in the December issue of Redbook. It includes an essay by Wendy as part of a larger feature titled, “7 perfectly imperfect holiday stories.” Click here to read.

Praise for CHANEL BONFIRE by Wendy Lawless

"There are bad mothers and there are alcoholic mothers, and then there are bad, alcoholic, psychotic mothers like Georgann Rea. Add glamour, beauty and a rapidly dwindling divorce settlement, and you’ve got Chanel Bonfire.

A small-town blonde from Kansas City, Georgann married up and out, catapulting herself and her two small daughters from a Midwestern first marriage to the luxuries of life in New York and London. In doing so, she effectively kidnapped the girls, blocking them from any contact with their father and holding them hostage to her volatile moods, her drinking, her florid romantic conquests and her suicide attempts.

Older daughter Wendy tries to protect her little sister Robbie from the worst of it, but she can’t stop the destructive spiral of her mother’s rage: how she breaks their toys, locks them in a closet, flirts with their boyfriends and tells them they’ve ruined her life. A fortuitous connection with a therapist helps Wendy, even as the violence between Robbie and their mother escalates. Little by little, the girls raggedly break away from their mother, although physical separation is easier than mental detachment. This miracle of a memoir is completely free from self-pity, and it’s surprisingly suspenseful. Written from the point of view of Wendy’s younger self, it unfolds for the reader as it unfolds for the daughters: with no clear resolution in sight. And yet it is clearly the product of a healthy retrospection, driven by a cinematic attention to detail, dialogue and scene. In writing Chanel Bonfire, Wendy Lawless has given up disguising her mother’s craziness in favor of telling the truth as clearly and objectively as is possible to do."
—Catherine Hollis, Bookpage

“[A] wrought and engaging memoir.”
Publisher's Weekly

“I was blown away by Wendy's ability to tell the story of such an emotional, troubled upbringing with such heart, love, and oftentimes, humor. If she isn't bitter, maybe none of us have the right to be. I found her story riveting.”
—Sarah Colonna, New York Times bestselling author of Life as I Blow It

"Mothers, in spite of what we wish desperately to believe, are sometimes very, very bad at taking care of children. Wendy Lawless survived her mother's flagrant horror show to bear witness and record her astonishing childhood. Chanel Bonfire makes an undesirable truth more vivid: some mothers just plain suck."
—Susanna Sonnenberg, New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Death and She Matters

“Chanel Bonfire is both terribly funny and terribly tragic, often at the same time. With remarkable clarity, wit, and grace, Wendy Lawless recounts a childhood defined by her wildly unstable mother, a woman who can morph from Grace Kelly to Joan Crawford in the blink of an eye. I laughed a lot, teared up once or twice, and called my mom to say ‘I love you’ once I finished.”
—Cristina Alger, national bestselling author of The Darlings

“What a heart-breaking memoir. I will never look at a blue nightgown the same way again!”
—Tim Gunn, New York Times bestselling author of Gunn’s Golden Rules and Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible

"A searing memoir that reads like a novel, as Lawless’s beautiful, unstable mother careens through the swinging sixties and seventies in New York, London, Paris and Morocco, two captive blond daughters in tow, before bottoming out in Boston. What astonishes is the author’s ability to tell her often hair-raising story of survival not only with lucidity and fluency but wry humor."
— Anne Korkeakivi, author of An Unexpected Guest

chanel bonfire wendy lawless memoir

Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless. Available January 8th, 2013.

 A stunning memoir about an actress's unconventional, heartbreaking childhood with an unstable alcoholic and suicidal mother — a real-life Holly Golightly turned Mommie Dearest — and the unusual strength that allowed her to rise above it all.

By the time Wendy Lawless turned seventeen, she'd known for quite some time that she didn't have a normal mother. But that didn't stop her from wanting one.

Georgann Rea didn't bake cookies or go to PTA meetings; she wore a mink coat and always had a lit Dunhill plugged into her cigarette holder. She had slept with too many men, and some women, and she didn't like dogs or children. Georgann had the ice queen beauty of a Hitchcock heroine and the cold heart to match.

In this evocative, darkly humorous memoir, Wendy deftly charts the highs and lows of growing up with her younger sister in the shadow of an unstable, fabulously neglectful mother. Georgann, a real-life Holly Golightly who constantly reinvents herself as she trades up from trailer-park to penthouse, suffers multiple nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts, while Wendy tries to hide the cracks in their fractured family from the rest of the world.

Chanel Bonfire depicts a childhood blazed through the refined aeries of The Dakota and the swinging townhouses of London, while the girls' beautiful but damned mother desperately searches for glamour and fulfillment. Ultimately, they must choose between living their own lives and being their mother's warden.

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about chanel bonfire wendy lawless memoir

Wendy Lawless is an actress who has appeared on television, in regional theater, Off-Broadway in David Ives's Obie-winning play, All in the Timing, and on Broadway, in The Heidi Chronicles.

Her essays about being a mom in Hollywood, including "Whatever Happened to Musical Chairs?" have appeared in the local Los Angeles press. She lives in California with her screenwriter husband and their two children.


chanel bonfire wendy lawless memoir

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