16 Must-Read Books for January 2013

A love song for a divided country, an abandoned girl's hunt for home...and more!

Chanel Bonfire

304 pages; Gallery Books
Georgann Rea, who has "the icy good looks of a Hitchcock heroine," along with a penchant for Dior negligees, Dunhill cigarettes, and bemused dissatisfaction, is the maternal focal point of Wendy Lawless's darkly comic memoir, Chanel Bonfire. Driven to improve her social status, Georgann and her real-life Holly Golightly act seem harmless enough, until she betrays her husband and trades up for a handsome millionaire 15 years her senior. (The pair proclaim their love at a party attended by their children and then spouses.) With Lawless and her sister in tow, the new family relocates to a palatial apartment in the infamous Dakota in Manhattan and enters high society. Still, Georgann is miserable, with "just a more glamorous cage to be locked in." A suicide attempt designed to regain the attention of her new husband fails to do the trick, and she reinvents herself again, this time as a rich divorcée, whisking off her daughters to a Park Avenue apartment and later a posh townhouse in London. After globe-trotting, they return to the United States with Georgann in full Mommie Dearest mode. Lawless, the ever-dutiful but ironic eldest child, chronicles her mother's decline from sparkling femme fatale to desperate drunk in this simultaneously chilling and hilarious tale, whose unmistakable message is that though Lawless has, in some ways, led a privileged life, she never got the one thing she most wanted: her mother's love.
— Abbe Wright