This is “The Glass Castle” for the Park Avenue set. An exhilarating story of survival, Mommie dearest style, with an international backdrop that includes New York, London, Paris, Morocco, and an explosive final show down between daughter and mother in Boston. Lawless is able to recount her Dickensian childhood with strange clarity and humor, leaving us the reader intensly grateful to meet Georgann Rea only between the pages of this heartbreaking and sensational memoir.
January 2013 Indie Next List
“Lawless has written a compelling, engaging, sometimes funny, and at times shocking tale of her childhood. Her mother, Georgann Rea, was a narcissist of the highest order, and Wendy and her younger sister suffered terrible emotional deprivation at her hands. From a very young age, when her mother attempts suicide for the first time, Wendy struggles to protect her sister and herself from a woman who lived a life of decadence, alcoholism, adultery, and lies. Lawless ultimately makes peace with herself and learns to live on her own terms, a process remarkably recounted in this searing memoir.”
— Ellen Burns, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT
In her stunning memoir, Wendy Lawless tells the often heartbreaking tale of her unconventional upbringing with an unstable alcoholic and suicidal mother—a real-life Holly Golightly turned Mommie Dearest—and the uncommon sense of resilience that allowed her to rise above it all.
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’d slept with too many men and a few women, and she didn’t like dogs or children. Georgann possessed the icy beauty of a Hitchcock heroine with the cold heart to match.
From living at the Dakota in 1960s Manhattan to London’s swinging town houses and beyond, Wendy Lawless and her younger sister navigated day-to-day life as their unstable and fabulously neglectful mother, Georgann, chased her delusions, suffered dramatic breakdowns, and survived suicide attempts. With clear-eyed grace and flashing wit, Lawless portrays the highs and lows of her unhinged upbringing—and how she survived her mother’s endlessly destructive search for glamour and fulfillment—in “a searing memoir that reads like a novel” (Anne Korkeakivi, An Unexpected Guest).
About the Author
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 work has appeared in Redbook magazine, on Powells.com, and in the local Los Angeles press. She lives in California with her screenwriter husband and their two children.
“Lawless leavens her harrowing story with biting humor and never descends into self-pity--but boy, do we feel for her.” — People
"Frequently entertaining chronicle of a daughter’s sad, detached upbringing." — Kirkus
“[A] darkly comic memoir…[Lawless] chronicles her mother’s decline from sparkling femme fatale to desperate drunk in this simultaneously chilling and hilarious tale, whose unmistakable message is that though Lawless has, in some ways, led a privileged life, she never got the one thing she most wanted: her mother’s love." — O Magazine
“[A] quick but powerful read that you can only wish was fiction.” — USA Today
“Lawless’s chronicles of life with her charming, wildly unstable mother could be bleak, but the author’s wit, resilience, and compassion make her story illuminating and inspiring.” — Reader's Digest
"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
“[A] wrought and engaging memoir.”
“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, 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
“This miracle of a memoir is completely free from self-pity, and it’s surprisingly suspenseful.” — BookPage
“Without too much self-pity, and with a good dash of humor, Lawless recounts a childhood spent on the move.” — Bust
"Chanel Bonfire is provocative and affecting, sometimes humorous, and filled with sadness and loneliness. Wendy tells her story in a stunning, straightforward manner that is very moving." — All Books Considered
"Lawless, a Broadway actress and essayist, keepsher prose straight forward, letting the story shine in this shockinglyentertaining memoir.” — Aritzia.com