Monday, January 7, 2013

Chanel Bonfire, by Wendy Lawless

Wendy always knew her mother was not like most mothers, nor did Wendy and her sister Robin have a typical childhood.  After their parents divorced, the girls lived with their mother, and had summer visits with their father.  Mother flitted from man to man, some of the men trying to be nurturing the girls, but all of the men eventually leaving.  In a sort of temper tantrum, their mother took the girls to London to live for several years, and then returned to the US to try to set up some semblance of a posh life.  Throughout the years, their mother's behavior rides like a roller coaster, often going off the rails.

When reading a memoir about emotional abuse, it is difficult to truly say you enjoy the book.  I mean, how can anyone enjoy reading about a child being manipulated, deceived, and abused?  That being said, I will say that I found this book to be an amazing and honest example of how some children survive abuse that does not leave a visible scar, but they are abused nonetheless.

I found Wendy's narrative easy to connect to, and found myself empathizing with her a lot as I read.  I really rooted for Wendy to be happy and successful, and breathed a sigh of relief each time Wendy found a new source of emotional support.  I cannot imagine what it was like to grow up in her reality, but Wendy paints a raw and honest picture of that reality.  While it is difficult to see Wendy's mother as anything short of a monster, the book also does a fair job pointing out that her behavior is a result of mental illness.

Parts of the book are funny, but mostly I found it heartbreaking.  Even while the girls were living a life of luxury, there was nothing about their lives that I envied.  I think this book is a powerful example of what can happen when you break free of abuse.  The book will definitely resonate with adult survivors of abuse, as well as fans of memoirs in general.

I received a review copy courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



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