Title: Chanel Bonfire
Author: Wendy Lawless
Narrator: Wendy Lawless
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, AudioBook, Audio CD/MP3
Publisher: Gallery Books
AudioBook Publisher: Tantor Media
Pages: 304 Pages / 6 Hours, 20 Minutes / 5 Audio CD’s
Source: Tantor Media via Edelweiss
Purchase Now: Amazon § Tantor Media § Barnes & Noble § Audible
About the Book:
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 went through men like Kleenex, and didn’t like dogs or children. Georgann had the ice queen beauty of a Hitchcock heroine and the cold heart to match.Wendy Lawless 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 town houses of London, while the girls’ beautiful but damned mother desperately searches for glamour and fulfillment. Ultimately, Wendy and her sister must choose between living their own lives and being their mother’s warden-the hardest, most painful, yet most important decision each of them will ever make.
Narrated by the author, this is a look at the spirit of a survivor and a testament to the power of resilience of the human spirit. Through a series of incredibly dark moments, Lawless manages to convey the utter helplessness of two young children caught in the miasma of their mother’s mental illness.
From the outside: they are wealthy, fortunate, well-educated and are granted many privileges that
were unique to the time and the setting. Behind closed doors they were treated to manipulations, drunken ramblings, a series of strange men and their mother’s ever-increasing fixation with being adored and worshipped at every step. What they didn’t realize, as children never do, is that none of their mother’s erratic behaviour or hateful actions was something they could change or take blame for.
While recounting stories that are horrifyingly specific in their detail, Lawless manages to show the core of strength and coping mechanisms that they developed as children: with insertions of pure joy in the sister’s interactions and a dark humor that threads throughout the tale. Even in the worst moments, her voicing is clear and distinct, with a sense of intonation and inflection that are specific to the three major characters in the story, and present without an over-reach of emotional inflections: the words alone convey the emotions with a clarity that is unique.
It is an interesting study in motivation: what makes one person more or better suited for a certain career path, and just how differing personalities react to the constant stress that would break many. As the girls mature and grow, they find that they cannot force, encourage nor even blackmail their mother into receiving the help she so desperately needs, and that no matter what they give, they will never fill the empty black hole of her soul.
One cannot help but feel fear, anger and shock on behalf of the children as the story is told: but that quickly turns to admiration as they are standing tall and setting their own paths, despite the repeated attempts to be drawn back into the miasma that was their childhood. Not an easy book to read/listen to: but the messages contained within are positive for those who choose to seek them. Most of all, Lawless and her sister are productive, functional and successful women despite their unconventional and often traumatic childhood.
I received an mp3 version of the audio book from Tantor Media via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word at I am, Indeed. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.