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The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin

The Many Lives of Mama Love

by Lara Love Hardin
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Quick take

From suburban soccer mom to convicted felon to bestselling ghostwriter, her remarkable true story is totally riveting.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Inspirational


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MarriageIssues

    Marriage issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Drug&AlcoholUse

    Drug & alcohol use


No one expects the police to knock on the million-dollar, two-story home of the perfect cul-de-sac housewife. But soccer mom Lara Love Hardin has been hiding a shady secret: she is funding her heroin addiction by stealing her neighbors’ credit cards.

Lara is convicted of thirty-two felonies and becomes inmate S32179. She learns that jail is a class system with a power structure that is somewhere between an adolescent sleepover party and Lord of the Flies. Furniture is made from tampon boxes and Snickers bars are currency. But Lara quickly finds the rules and brings love and healing to her fellow inmates as she climbs the social ladder to become the “shot caller,” showing that jailhouse politics aren’t that different from the PTA meetings she used to attend.

When she’s released, she reinvents herself as a ghostwriter. Now, she’s legally co-opting other people’s identities and getting to meet Oprah, meditate with The Dalai Lama, and have dinner with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But the shadow of her past follows her. Shame is a poison worse than heroin—there is no way to detox. Lara must learn how to forgive herself and others, navigate life as a felon on probation, prove to herself that she is more good than bad, and much more.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of suicide.

Why I love it

Every great memoir is as distinct as a fingerprint. But usually, as in The Many Lives of Mama Love, they all leave me with the same question: how did the author fit so much living into one life?

When we first meet Lara Love Hardin she is a mother of six possessed of a seemingly charmed, white picket life. But bubbling beneath this pleasant surface, Lara and her husband are horribly addicted to heroin, barely managing to support their fix (and family) with stolen credit cards and gumption. Then the other shoe drops … Lara is convicted of more than thirty felonies and sent to prison where she must quickly learn to adapt to a very different world from the California suburb she’s left behind. Slowly but surely she builds a community behind bars, setting herself on a journey of healing and self-acceptance.

On release however Lara struggles to rebuild her life again and create stability for her family, but eventually is offered a lifeline. A successful literary agent hires her as a ghost writer, giving her a chance to stoke a lifelong love of language and opening up incredible opportunities. Soon she is working with the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama and reinventing herself in a wholly new light.

This is a thrilling story animated by grace and hope that restored my faith in second chances. As Lara writes, “Life is strange and heartbreaking and wonderful, and it can change on you in an instant.”

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