Heart of Glass

A Memoir

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About The Book

Author of the New York Times bestseller Chanel Bonfire, Wendy Lawless chronicles her twenties: the darkly funny story of a girl without a roadmap for life who leaves her disastrous past to find herself in the gritty heart of 1980s New York City.

Before downtown Manhattan was scrubbed clean, gentrified, and overrun with designer boutiques and trendy eateries and bars, it was the center of a burgeoning art scene—both exciting and dangerous. Running from the shipwreck of her glamorous and unstable childhood with a volatile mother, Wendy Lawless landed in the center of it all. With an open heart and a thrift store wardrobe, Wendy navigated this demi-monde of jaded punk rockers, desperate actors, pulsing parties, and unexpected run-ins with her own past as she made every mistake of youth, looked for love in all the wrong places, and eventually learned how to grow up on her own.

With the same “biting humor” (People) that made her “powerful” (USA TODAY) and “illuminating and inspiring” (Reader’s Digest) New York Times bestseller Chanel Bonfire so captivating, Wendy turns her brutally honest and often hilarious spotlight on herself, recounting her tumultuous and giddy twenties trying to make it in the creative underbelly of New York City, all the while searching for love, a paying job, and occasionally, a free meal.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Heart of Glass includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

In this edgy and romantic follow-up to her New York Times bestselling debut memoir, Chanel Bonfire, Wendy Lawless chronicles her misguided twenties—a darkly funny story of a girl without a roadmap for life who flees her disastrous past to find herself in the gritty heart of 1980s New York City.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Why do you think Wendy chose to begin her story with the scene of the cops busting into her apartment in the middle of the night? In what ways was this scene a metaphor for Wendy’s twenties, or perhaps for 1980s New York City?

2. One of the biggest themes of the book is love—or rather, the difficulty of finding it. “What was love? Compatibility? Good sex? The ability to stay up all night talking? Or to be able to be together and not say a word?” Wendy wonders on page 22. Take a look at Wendy’s boyfriends and love interests throughout the book. How is each relationship distinct from the others? To any of them share similarities? What kind of love does Wendy find (if any) with each man?

3. How is Wendy’s abortion a turning point for her? Why do you think that soon afterward she drops out of NYU?

4. When Wendy and Robin spend Christmas with their father’s family in Minnesota, the experience is bittersweet for them. Do you understand their reaction? Why or why not? Have you ever had a similar experience?

5. In chapter eight, Wendy begins her schooling at the National Theatre Conservatory in Colorado. How is life in Colorado different for Wendy from what it was like in the first seven chapters? In what way is being at NTC a turning point for her?

6. On page 248, Wendy muses, “Maybe home wasn’t somewhere where you found or were born into but something you made.” Discuss the many different places Wendy calls home throughout the novel. What do they each have in common? How are they different?

7. In the last scene of the book when Wendy marries David, she says, “I may not have known exactly what I was looking for when I’d first come to New York or for most of the time since, but I knew then . . . that I’d found it” (pg. 360). In what ways has Wendy come full circle since the beginning of the book? What is it do you think she was looking for and has now found?

8. Much of Wendy’s love for the theater comes from watching her father, a successful theater actor. Why do you think this draws Wendy to the theater? What is she seeking in acting that she feels she can’t find anywhere else?

9. What is your opinion of Wendy as a narrator and how she tells her story? Why do you think she was able to stay grounded in the midst of such a chaotic young adulthood?

10. Why did you choose Heart of Glass for your book club discussion? What are your overall thoughts about the book? How does it compare to other memoirs your group has read?
 

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Read Wendy Lawless’s first memoir, Chanel Bonfire. How do you think Wendy the narrator has changed from Chanel Bonfire to Heart of Glass? Can you find any similarities between the two?

2. If you enjoyed Chanel Bonfire, consider adding another memoir set in the epochal days of New York City to your discussion line-up, such as Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon, Just Kids by Patti Smith, or I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell.

3. Put together a Heart of Glass soundtrack and play it as background music during your book club gathering.  Songs mentioned in the memoir include “Mad About the Boy” by Noël Coward, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by the Police, “Pull Up to the Bumper” by Grace Jones, and “Madness” by Madness.

4. When she’s describing living on a budget in Manhattan, Wendy mentions some of the places she would eat at, including Veselka and The Dojo (now simply called Dojo), which are both still in business today. “Instead of Meat Loaf Monday and Taco Tuesday, it was Tahini Thursday and Pickle Soup Sunday” (pg. 14). Try sampling or preparing some of the foods that Wendy survived on, such as tahini, rice bowls, borscht, challah bread, and chicken noodle soup.
 

About The Author

© Dana Patrick

Wendy Lawless is an actress who has appeared on television, in regional theater, Off-Broadway in David Ives’s Obie-winning play All in the Timing, and on Broadway in The Heidi Chronicles. Her work has appeared in Redbook magazine, on Powells.com, and in the local Los Angeles press. She lives in California with her screenwriter husband and their two children.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (October 11, 2016)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476749839

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Raves and Reviews

Praise for Heart of Glass

"Lawless is a plucky, sympathetic narrator and grapples bravely with setback after setback.”

– New York Times Book Review

"Lawless has a fine eye for detail; reading about her misadventures will give readers—especially anyone who was single in 1980s New York City—a delicious shudder."

– People

“Lawless has an engaging voice… seems to have an unending number of stories to tell.”

– USA Today

“[Lawless] writes with charming candor... A lively, at times scandalous, tale of a twenty-something discovering herself.”

– Booklist

"As she shares her progression from an insecure, troubled girl to a young woman who can stand confidently on her own two feet, the unsinkable Lawless tells a tale of triumph over a difficult past. Readers will be drawn to her unique blend of sweetness, grit, and resilience."

– Publishers Weekly

“The details shine. Lawless is observant and often profanely funny.”

– Columbus Dispatch

"Before Lena Dunham and Co. were traipsing through Millenial-clogged Brooklyn, there was the young, fierce, and funny Wendy Lawless, conquering through the weird, wild, wide-open streets of Manhattan in the early-80s. Witty, poignant and vulnerable, Lawless knows how to spin a tale."

– Michael Hainey, author of AFTER VISITING FRIENDS (A Son's Story)

“Wendy Lawless has written a beautiful, and sometimes gritty memoir of her twenties. After a tumultuous upbringing, she finds herself lost and looking for love among artists in 1980's New York City, while finding her footing as an actress. Inspiring and often heart-wrenching, Wendy finally discovers what it means and how it feels to live ‘happily ever after.’”

– Christina McDowell, author of AFTER PERFECT

Praise for Chanel Bonfire

“Lawless leavens her harrowing story with biting humor and never descends into self-pity--but boy, do we feel for her.”

– People

"Frequently entertaining chronicle of a daughter’s sad, detached upbringing."

– Kirkus

“[A] darkly comic memoir…[Lawless] 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."

– O Magazine

“[A] quick but powerful read that you can only wish was fiction.”

– USA Today

“Lawless’s chronicles of life with her charming, wildly unstable mother could be bleak, but the author’s wit, resilience, and compassion make her story illuminating and inspiring.”

– Reader's Digest

"A searing memoir that reads like a novel, as Lawless’s beautiful, unstable mother careens through the swinging sixties and seventies in New York, London, Paris and Morocco, two captive blond daughters in tow, before bottoming out in Boston. What astonishes is the author’s ability to tell her often hair-raising story of survival not only with lucidity and fluency but wry humor."

– Anne Korkeakivi, author of An Unexpected Guest

“[A] wrought and engaging memoir.”

– Publishers Weekly

"Mothers, in spite of what we wish desperately to believe, are sometimes very, very bad at taking care of children. Wendy Lawless survived her mother's flagrant horror show to bear witness and record her astonishing childhood. Chanel Bonfire makes an undesirable truth more vivid: some mothers just plain suck."

– Susanna Sonnenberg, New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Death and She Matters

Chanel Bonfire is both terribly funny and terribly tragic, often at the same time. With remarkable clarity, wit, and grace, Wendy Lawless recounts a childhood defined by her wildly unstable mother, a woman who can morph from Grace Kelly to Joan Crawford in the blink of an eye. I laughed a lot, teared up once or twice, and called my mom to say ‘I love you’ once I finished.”

– Cristina Alger, bestselling author of The Darlings

“What a heart-breaking memoir. I will never look at a blue nightgown the same way again!”

– Tim Gunn, New York Times bestselling author of Gunn’s Golden Rules and Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible

“This miracle of a memoir is completely free from self-pity, and it’s surprisingly suspenseful.”

– BookPage

“I was blown away by Wendy's ability to tell the story of such an emotional, troubled upbringing with such heart, love, and oftentimes, humor. If she isn't bitter, maybe none of us have the right to be. I found her story riveting.”

– Sarah Colonna, New York Times bestselling author of Life as I Blow It

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