BEST READ of 2014: “Damage Control: A Memoir of Outlandish Privilege, Loss and Redemption”

damage control

More accurately, it’s the best, most compelling memoir I’ve read in several years and author Sergei Boissier, is a revelation as a brilliant, engaging storyteller. I appreciate great fiction but you can’t beat real life. To me, “Damage Control” is the Cuban/European society, Jet Set version of “Mommie Dearest,” with real class and superb doses of exalted pedigrees, affairs and psychological abuse adorned with jewels and haute couture. Of course, there are beyond-posh locations around the world, boarding schools, chateaux and chalets, oh my. Plus, Boissier is gay and worked as a psychotherapist in San Francisco at the forefront of the AIDS epidemic. And despite all odds, adopted a baby. Get the picture?



As a voracious reader, I usually keep five or six books in rotation at once. However, I could not concentrate on any other book when I started reading “Damage Control.” It kept me up, reading late into the night.

Because Boissier was also a psychotherapist there’s also his informed insight into the mayhem which surrounded him. What makes this book exceptional is Boissier’s masterful writing, and since this is my profession, I do not say that lightly. There were many times I re-read certain passages just to appreciate and savor the words. Sigh. Total writer worship.

His riveting descriptions take you back there, inside his head, in the moment. He takes you on a gripping, emotional roller-coaster ride from one page to the next. From a lush picnic in Gstaad, where the servants went ahead to lay out crystal and silver (perfection) to the horrifying moment where his beloved nanny disembowels the little boy with a devastating, triple-whammy betrayal. I thought, ‘this isn’t a breathtakingly-written novel concocted by a writer’s whacked-out imagination.’ He actually lived through — or should I say, survived — all of these experiences. A friend and I read the book at the same time and there were many late night emails flying back and forth. ‘Oh my GOD, did you get to the nanny/black bean soup chapter yet!?” ‘The greyhound!?’ ‘WTF! Right?!’

I’d never met Boissier, even though we have dozens of very close friends in common in Miami and elsewhere. I did know his mother, Dolores Smithies, and went to a number of dazzling parties at her art-filled, waterfront penthouse on Key Biscayne when I was the society columnist for The Miami Herald. Blonde, sleek and supremely fashionable, she had an engaging personality that was also intimidating. As if a bolt of lightning entered the room. She could greet you, with her deep laugh, like you were the only person in the world. But she could also look through someone she disliked, eyebrow raised, as if they did not exist. I witnessed the latter at a cocktail party once or twice. It was bone-chilling yet… quite entertaining.

Enraptured as I was with this book, I contacted Boissier last spring to congratulate him – actually to gush. We communicated frequently and not surprisingly, we’ve become friends. He’s hilariously witty, with zero filter. One of his comments: “Can you believe I survived wearing those green silk shorts and Mary Janes?” Just my style. You will love this book.

I’m honored to host Sergei Boissier’s first Miami book signing!

Saturday – February 21 – 7:00 PM

Books & Books 265 Aragon Avenue 

Coral Gables, Florida 33134  305.442.4408



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From the publisher:

“Damage Control – A Memoir of Outlandish Privilege, Loss and Redemption” by Sergei Boissier:
A powerful, blazingly honest memoir told with humor and panache about a mother and son finding each other again after years of estrangement. A coming-of-age story of outrageous excess, glamour, entitlement and grand delusion, lived above the fray and over the top. A gay man’s journey through the joys and perils of his generation, coming out in the early eighties in the shadows of a terrifying disease that would devastate so many, surviving tremendous loss and culminating in his decision to adopt a child as a single parent.

When Sergei, a psychotherapist who has been living in Paris for the past decade, discovers that his mother is terminally ill, he decides to leave his practice and his life to be by her side, in the hope of healing the bitterness and discord before it is too late.

This memoir offers a fascinating and disturbing portrayal of a glamorous woman whose life has been one of great elegance and luxury, along with disillusionment, grandiosity, seduction and self-destruction: her childhood in pre-Castro Cuba, a mythical island paradise; her marriage at the age of eighteen to a dashing young Swiss man and their subsequent exile; her frantic and desperate resolve to create a mythical life of her own and pass on the traditions of aristocracy to her children, all the while leading a double life and suffering feelings of intense longing and frustration and guilt which eventually cause her to destroy and walk away from everything that she has been raised to want and expect out of life.

“Damage Control” is ultimately a rendering of the cycle of life, saying goodbye to a parent so you can say hello to a child, and finding grace and redemption through a mother’s love.




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