What girl hasn’t thought – for at least a second – that they’re off-the-wall crazy and even their therapist is thinking they’re a lost case? I know I have. What girl hasn’t thought, “Wow, my mother is a loon to another level!”? You got me there, too. As someone who enjoys reading but doesn’t consider herself much of a reader, I found two quick yet enthralling books – a novel and a memoir – that soothed my mind of my neuroses and left me happy I’d read a great book but blue it was over.
The Chocolate Money
This novel by Ashley Prentice Norton chronicles the early and teenage years of Bettina Ballentyne and her impossibly rich, narcissistic, manipulative and deranged mother. Starting out in 1960s Chicago, bookish, shy and humble Bettina’s ways do not fly with her mother Babs’s lavish and scandalous lifestyle, being a chocolate heir with “chocolate money” and all. As Bettina beings to mature in her mother’s care, all insanity ensues, and she “begins to walk a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction”. The novel takes elements from Mommie Dearest, Prep and even some Fifty Shades of Grey. I found myself actually sitting on the couch reading and TiVo-ing my nightly obsession shows just so I could get through the chapter.
Let me start by saying, I read at a snail’s pace. But somehow I powered though Wendy Lawless’s memoir, Chanel Bonfire, in THREE DAYS! That is simply unheard of for me. I’d never read a memoir before, so I was not sure how it would read and if I’d be able to keep up. No worries there – Lawless’s voice and telling of her story read like a novel, and I often forgot what I was reading was true. About a real-life “Holly Golightly meets Mommie Dearest”, Georgann Rea (Lawless’s mother), suffers from deep psychological issues. Lawless and her younger sister are forced to grow up, moving from city to city with a mother whose chest contains a heart of ice. The tales in Chanel Bonfire had a dark appeal, knowing that the horrors depicted actually occurred made the read even more chilling and engrossing.
Both books have similar elements: both take place in the mid to late 20th century and include severely disturbed mothers, young girls growing up in opulent homes and no father figure (yet a string of men strolling in and out of the home). The scandals and horror stories break your heart yet keep you glued to the pages. Breaking free of their insane and domineering mothers, both protagonists take the high road, making the best out of an unfortunate situation and striving for success. Although one is fiction, a girl’s story of resilience and survival is stunningly told in both books – something every girl needs to know if possible!
I’ll say it again; I’ve never been a big reader, not because I don’t like it, but because I’ve never had the patience. But with my love of these two books, I think I’ve made a 180 – I cant wait to find my next literary fix. Hope these can do the same for you!
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