Full Kirkus Review

Charlotte Laws and her book

Laws’ memoir focuses on the wild and varied situations she finds herself in while seeking her biological parents.

As the adopted child of an upper-class family in Atlanta, Laws (Devil in the Basement, 2018, etc.) had always felt like a “B-flat while [her] peers…had been C-sharps.” Laws’ demanding father dismissed everything that wasn’t money, and her distant mother’s suicide attempt left her in a vegetative state. The author’s quirky worldview and dark sense of humor were always at odds with her rigid, depressing childhood environment.

Fleeing west as soon as she could, she moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. She worked as a bodyguard, a backup singer for an Elvis imitator, a maid, and a live-in caretaker in a mobile home. She encountered some of the strangest characters the West Coast had to offer along the way and found herself in a few genuinely harrowing situations that she recounts in riveting detail. In leveraging her greatest skill as a party crasher, Laws got a handle on the sprawling metropolis of LA and found pieces to the puzzle of her past.

When she eventually met her biological father and heard the story of her birth, she mused to herself that, “Even as a zygote, I was on track to be a TV movie.” Questions of family and heritage come into play with each new profession and zany escapade as Laws writes of single motherhood and struggling to make it in the city of Angels.

Charlotte Laws rebel bad girl

Like David Sedaris’ wry personal essays, Laws’ chapters feel like self-contained short stories that mine any given situation for personal confessions and comical observations. She does tend to veer off course, and some editing of the more tangential episodes would have made for a tighter exploration of the pitch-black comedy that is Laws’ family history. But even when the memoir strays from the primary storyline into tales of sex dungeons, glitzy celebrity parties, or dating service mishaps, Laws punctuates every moment with an extraordinary sense of comedic timing and a sharp eye for twisted details.

Turns bleak family secrets and struggles into one hilarious, witty joy ride after another.