In 1957, a children's book called The Lonely Doll was published. With its distinctive pink-and-white checked cover and black-and-white photographs featuring a wide-eyed doll named Edith, it quickly captured the hearts of young girls all over the country and made the author, Dare Wright, a household name.
Forty years after its publication, the book was out of print but not forgotten. When the cover image unaccountably surfaced in journalist Jean Nathan's consciousness one afternoon, she went in search of the book—and ultimately its author. Nathan found Dare Wright living out her last days in a decrepit New York City public hospital.
Piecing together interviews and documents, sifting through the thousands of photographs Wright has taken, Nathan uncovered a glamorous life. Blond, beautiful Dare Wright had begun her career as an actress and model and then turned to fashion photography before stumbling upon her role as bestselling author. But there was a dark side to the story: a brother lost in childhood, ill-fate marriage plans, a complicated, controlling mother. Edith Stevenson Wright, herself a successful portrait painter, played such a dominant role in her daughter's life that Dare was never able to find a way into the adult world. Only through her work could she speak for herself: in her books she created the happy family she'd always yearned for, while her self-portraits betrayed an unresolved tension between sexuality and innocence, a desire to belong and painful isolation.
Illustrated with more than fifty stunning photographs, The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll tells the unforgettable story of a woman who, imprisoned by her childhood, sought to free herself through art.