From suburban soccer mom to convicted felon to bestselling ghostwriter, her remarkable true story is totally riveting.
Good to know
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.
The Many Lives of Mama Love
AS NEEDED FOR PAIN
Reading was my first addiction. When I tell people this today, they laugh and nod as if they understand, as if they too are part of a secret book-addict society whose greatest crime is staying up late, a flashlight under the covers, compulsively reading page after page.
The strange thing is, no one ever asks me what my second addiction is. I mean, someone who loved to read could never be a real addict, could they? The kind of addict who steals from their family, betrays the people they love, commits felonies, implodes their life because the finding and using and finding more consumes every ounce of who they used to be. No one ever loses their job because they read too much. There are no book club interventions. The prisons aren’t full of people who stole to fund their Kindle habit.
The truth is I’ve only ever had one addiction. The white whale of addictions: escape. From as far back as I can remember there has always been a better place than wherever I am. A better me than whoever I was. Books helped me escape when I was young. Not just because of my precocious angsty-ness and early onset existential crises; they were literal escape.
Most of my early childhood memories are just stories told to me decades later. Stories of violence and starvation and abandonment.
I do remember every teacher, though, from kindergarten through high school. I remember the first multisyllabic word I read in school: policeman. I was so proud of myself as I sounded out the letters. In first grade I read Gone with the Wind—twice. It was over a thousand pages. I didn’t understand Rhett Butler or Scarlett O’Hara or the Civil War, but I savored the endless tiny print pages of word after word. I savored the escape. The longer the book the better.
Why I love it
BOTM Editorial Team
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.”
Member ratings (5,738)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ So good! The realness and rawness of Lara’s telling of her story was much appreciated and recognized. It’s amazing what’s she’s been through and how she was able to overcome. Must read!!!
Castle Rock, CO
This book had me hooked from the start! I wanted Mama Love to get better so badly, not just for herself but for her children. It gave me OITNB vibes as Love’s time in corrections played out. 5 ⭐️’s!
West Kingston, RI
Lara inspired all the feels! The way she writes I literally felt like I was by her side experiencing every word. Her story is amazing! She is amazing! I can’t wait to read more by her! Great pick BOTM
South Bend, IN
Absolutely devoured this book! Lara has such a gift. I didn’t even realize until half way thru that she also wrote The Sun Does Shine, which was also a five star read for me. Inspiring and honest.
Wow. THIS BOOK IS EVERYTHING!!! I just read it from start to finish on a long day of airport travel. I couldn’t put it down. It is brilliantly powerful in its vulnerability and clarity of voice. LOVE.