Chanel Bonfire

By Wendy Lawless
(Gallery Books, Hardcover, 9781451675368, 304pp.)

Publication Date: January 8, 2013

Other Editions of This Title: Compact Disc, Compact Disc, MP3 CD, Paperback

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the 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


With clear-eyed grace, refreshing honesty, and flashing wit, Wendy Lawless tells the true story of her unhinged upbringing in this

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 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.

Conversation Starters from


  1. Why do you suppose Wendy Lawless chose to open Chanel Bonfire with her mother’s first suicide attempt? What does this scene reveal about Georgann, as well as about nine-year-old Wendy and her younger sister, Robin?

Praise For Chanel Bonfire

eoeLawless leavens her harrowing story with biting humor and never descends into self-pity--but boy, do we feel for her.e

"Frequently entertaining chronicle of a daughtere(TM)s sad, detached upbringing."

eoe[A] darkly comic memoire[Lawless] chronicles her mothere(TM)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 mothere(TM)s love."
-O Magazine

eoe[A] quick but powerful read that you can only wish was fiction.e
-USA Today

eoeLawlesse(TM)s chronicles of life with her charming, wildly unstable mother could be bleak, but the authore(TM)s wit, resilience, and compassion make her story illuminating and inspiring.e
-Reader's Digest

"A searing memoir that reads like a novel, as Lawlesse(TM)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 authore(TM)s ability to tell her often hair-raising story of survival not only with lucidity and fluency but wry humor."
-Anne Korkeakivi, author ofAn Unexpected Guest

eoe[A] wrought and engaging memoir.e

eoeI 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.e
-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 Timesbestselling author ofHer Last DeathandShe Matters

eoeChanel 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 e~I love youe(TM) once I finished.e

-Cristina Alger, bestselling author ofThe Darlings

eoeWhat a heart-breaking memoir. I will never look at a blue nightgown the same way again!e

-Tim Gunn,New York Timesbestselling author ofGunne(TM)s Golden RulesandTim Gunne(TM)s Fashion Bible

eoeThis miracle of a memoir is completely free from self-pity, and ite(TM)s surprisingly suspenseful.e

eoeWithout too much self-pity, and with a good dash of humor, Lawless recounts a childhood spent on the move.e

"Chanel Bonfireis 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.e

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