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The Road Through Wonderland: Surviving John Holmes (5 Year Anniversary) Paperback – August 1, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 330 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 2003 movie Wonderland vivified Schiller's teenage experience under the thrall of a drug-addled porn star in L.A. in the late 1970s, while this long docudrama expands on that raw era to include her peripatetic, dysfunctional upbringing and aftermath as a survivor. The daughter of a Vietnam vet and a German woman he met and married overseas, Schiller spent her early years moving around to accommodate her father's military career, especially between New Jersey and the suburbs of Miami. After a free-wheeling road trip, the family ended up in Glendale, Calif., where Schiller met John Holmes, the charismatic 32-year-old married manager of an apartment complex they happened to crash in. Holmes clearly took on a fatherly role to young Schiller, whose own father left her to her own devices, including feeding herself. She was 15, and he had a thriving secret career as a porn star. She eventually moved in with Holmes and his sympathetic wife, Sharon, though drugs soon changed the dynamic to erratic behavior: Holmes beat and prostituted Schiller before she fled, and he became entangled in the so-called Wonderland murders of 1981. This is the grim, interminable plight of a "throwaway" teen with nowhere else to go, a cautionary tale in workmanlike prose.
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From Booklist

Curiously enough for a book concerned with notorious pornographic film star John Holmes, there is very little emphasis on sex here. Instead, Schiller, who met Holmes in 1976 when she was just 15, details their five-year love affair, the stability he provided in the wake of her troubled childhood, and the deterioration of their relationship after Homes became addicted to cocaine and was ultimately arrested. While in the grip of drug-fueled paranoia, he would beat her while also forcing her to prostitute herself for money to feed his habit. Her vulnerability is revealed by the fact that she spends as much time describing the way he casually destroyed her beloved Christmas gifts as she does the degradations he forced her to undergo. The most fascinating person in the book is Holmes' wife, Sharon, a dedicated nurse who claims she was ignorant of Holmes and Schiller's relationship; indeed, she became more of a mother to Dawn than her own mother ever was. Dawn's story is so volatile and dysfunctional that even her labored prose can't mask the drama of lives spinning out of control. --Joanne Wilkinson

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 478 pages
  • Publisher: Medallion Press; 1st Printing edition (August 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605420832
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605420837
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (330 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cooljonnorris VINE VOICE on August 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
First, my usual disclaimer: While Dawn and I are not friends, I am acquainted with her. When I discovered she was writing a book about her experiences, I approached her to review it.

A word of warning: if you are looking for titillating details of the porn industry or John Holmes, you will be disappointed. This book is about Dawn and her ordeal as Holmes' girlfriend, not about porn, the porn industry, or Holmes' place in that. There is very little mention of it in this book, as it has very little relevance to Dawn's story. In fact, she had no idea who he was or why he was famous for some time after they met. (He was a major porn star in the 70s, for those who aren't aware of that.)

The book is quite well written, drawing the reader into the story rather quickly. It keeps the reader's interest almost effortlessly, and I would have finished it in one sitting if my schedule had allowed. I found myself deeply interested in the characters and events.

The book begins with Dawn's difficult childhood in a dangerous neighborhood in Florida, and moves through these turbulent years to her parent's divorce and the move to L.A., setting the stage for her introduction to Holmes. She goes into considerable detail about many of the milestone events which were turning points in her life and relationship with Holmes and others. While not overtly explicit, she is quite candid about her thoughts and feelings, giving the reader a deeper insight into the process of seduction in an abusive relationship.

Most of the book details her rollercoaster ride as Holmes' underage girlfriend. The reader gets to witness the cycle of abuse/romance/abuse which becomes familiar to anyone even mildly aware of the problem of abusive relationships.
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Format: Paperback
The Road Through Wonderland is a well expressed memoir that methodically details the highs and lows of Dawn Schiller's relationship with 32 year old porn legend, John Holmes. In the summer of 1976, Schiller was a young teenage girl left to her own devices after the sudden divorce of her parents resulted in a relative state of abandonment by her father.

The setting of Dawn's meeting with Holmes is in Glendale, California, almost a decade after the wake of the 60s revolution and during a less restrictive era, when the lines of social mores were slightly askew in comparison to today's climate of clearly defined laws regarding matters of sexual consent. As an adult film star, Holmes was at the pinnacle of his career and Schiller is unaware of his stature in the X-rated industry, until the nature of his work is divulged by a tenant at the Glendale cottages where John and his wife of eleven years, Sharon, are co-managers. John shields Dawn from his profession and despite the differences in their ages, he and Schiller share an almost immediate mutual attraction. In more than half of the book, Dawn describes the first few years of their forbidden but blossoming romance and basks in John's adoring attention while remembering to respect Sharon by maintaining a demeanor of discretion. Holmes plays multiple roles in their burgeoning relationship - both as a father figure and charismatic Svengali. Eventually, Sharon becomes a trusted friend and surrogate mother to Schiller.

Dramatically, Holmes is converted from an attentive and caring boyfriend into a paranoid and violent desperado after he introduces cocaine into the fold. Schiller spends her final year with Holmes in fear of a man she no longer recognizes.
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Format: Paperback
It is not a wonderful feeling to know that this kind of horror could happen to a young woman, much less a family member, but the story is AMAZING. It is a rollercoaster of emotion and SO well written that the ride feels virtual to the reader. As sad as it makes me, it inspires an activist in me that I did not know was there. I hope the message of helping abused youth, or 'teen throwaways' is shouted loud and clear and reaches all the ears and eyes it takes to prevent this from ever happening again!

This is also a powerful reminder to previous drug users just how ugly things could have gotten had the drug abuse not stopped... Likewise it is a word to the current drug user just how quickly your life can be taken from you!Whether it is making poor choices while intoxicated or succumbing to temptation and lust in the company of someone who will drag you down with them...

The finale of the book may not be a Disney happy ending but you are alive, sister, and such a beautiful powerful person. You have so much love and compassion in your heart and I look up to you like never before. You have survived what nobody should, and I hope telling your story gives you the relief and reward it takes to get your dream acomplished - to prevent this from happening again to ANYONE. I know you had to be pushed, at times, to continue to pen this painful memory but you did it and I am SO proud of you.

I STRONGLY recomend this book to anyone willing to be captivated and moved like never before... You get sucked in from the very first chapter!!!

P.S. You are such a good writter!!!! Hate to say it but I am very critical and I simply could not put this book down! WOW!!!
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