Sunday, July 1, 2012

'Chanel Bonfire'

Why do so many people feel the need to expose family secrets?  Are they flaming narcissists?  Could they be in it for the money?

Or do they have a need to drop the baggage and leave it at the airport?

Some of the so-called memoirs that I've read seemed to be a combination of all three.  That is, until I read 'The Glass Castle' by Jeannette Walls.  Jeannette's book left me feeling very angry, yet I couldn't stop laughing.  Sure, she and her siblings lived a gypsy-type of life; without money, always on the run, forced to leave everything they loved behind.  Her parents acted like spoiled, selfish brats, and when I was three-quarters of the way through the book, I wanted to strangle them.  Seriously.  Read the book and you'll see what I mean.

We now have a welcome, yet cringe-worthy, addition: 'Chanel Bonfire', a memoir written by actress Wendy Lawless (no relation to Lucy 'Zena' Lawless).  I started reading it with a bit of trepidation, and two hours later, I finished it.  It is a compelling portrait of a family with big issues.  Wendy's mother is at the center of this well-written memoir, a selfish, vain woman who feels that the world owes her everything.  Although she's compared to Truman Capote's 'Holly Golightly', I feel as if she were the Wicked Witch of the West.  "Me! Me! Me!" was her mantra, and everyone else could go to hell.  She moved her little family from New York to London, living the high life and collecting admirers and haute couture along the way.  

Her mothering skills were nonexistent, and her two daughters suffered immeasurably.  Robin, the youngest daughter, grew to become a rebellious woman, while Wendy was the peacemaker...and the one who tried to shield the world from her mother's actions.  Both women eventually found the courage to live their own lives and escape their mother.  The end of this memoir is astounding and heartbreaking.

The woman had mental problems, true, but she wouldn't get help.  She lied, she cheated, she tried to commit suicide, and she stole other men (I wanted to gag when she tried to steal Wendy's boyfriend) who soon had the good sense to leave.  But worst of all, she lied to her daughters and kept them from a father who loved them dearly and would have given them a normal life.

Trust me:  You have to read this book when it debuts in January 2013.

You'll rethink your parenting skills.  And discover you aren't doing such a bad job.

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