The Chanel Bonfire


chanel-bonfire-coverby Wendy Lawless
Gallery Books, 2013
Hardcover, 304 pages
(Paperback, EBook, and Audiobook also available)

Editor’s Note: Glendale resident Wendy Lawless presented her memoir The Chanel Bonfire during National Library Week (April 2013) at the Glendale Central Library. Guest author Carol Brusha, former Board member of the Friends of the Glendale Public Library, recently contributed this book review.

During National Library Week, stage and television actress Wendy Lawless came to the Glendale Public Library to discuss the book she wrote about life with her mother. She read the first chapter, and I decided I wanted to know more so I obtained the book from the library.

Chanel Bonfire is a sad memoir about a woman who should not have had custody of her children. Lawless writes in an objective, journalistic manner, without histrionics, even though her mother was a seething cauldron of them. In the book, when the author finally seeks a therapist, she is told her mother is “psychotic.”

“You mean, like, crazy?” [Lawless responds.]

“Therapists dislike the word crazy…Let’s just say that your mother is mentally deranged and has lost contact with reality,” said the therapist.

The first part of the memoir describing the author’s life in England focused more on Lawless’ adventures, and I wondered where the book was going. However, later the story becomes much more gripping and the reader can clearly discern that Lawless’ mother was a narcissistic psychopath. You cannot believe what she does and the author tells it very objectively.

The author and her younger sister are survivors, however, and in her book she looks back clear-eyed at the dark world of her childhood spent with a mentally unstable adult.