Charles Manson was a cult leader in California in the late 1960s, and his followers were dubbed the “Manson Family”. Together the cult performed a series of crimes including mass murders. Now imprisoned at Corcoran State Prison, Manson is a household name that still sends shivers down backs. The Girls by Emma Cline was loosely based on this story, but don’t get hung up on that.
While I was reading The Girls, I felt as though I was watching something I wasn’t meant to see. The book follows fourteen-year-old Evie as she navigates conflicts at home and the loss of friends. Evie doesn’t have a support system, and is looking to anyone that can make her feel better…enter Suzanne, a girl she sees in the parking lot. She sees a lifestyle in this girl that looks blissful and idealistic compared to her seemingly dull existence, and she goes for it. Set aside the fact that she joins a cult, and this truly is a coming-of-age story.
Evie is the narrator and recalls the story a couple of decades later when one of her friend’s children recognizes her from a news story about the murders. This re-telling gives the story a very reminiscent feeling, leaving the reader feeling sympathetic to what Evie went through in her youth. She was misunderstood, and desperate to be accepted. A lot of her angst came from her relationship with her mother, which was hard for me to relate to. My mom and I have a fantastic relationship, but I can still empathize with what the author is trying to convey. Emma Cline’s choice of words can be shocking, but I challenge you to dig deeper and attempt to understand what life was like for an adolescent girl in the 1960s.
This was Cline’s debut novel, and I see true promise in her writing career. She tells a compelling story that leaves you wanting more. I would highly recommend picking up The Girls this summer, and research the Manson Family afterward.