“They didn’t have very far to fall—I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself.”
by Emma Cline
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Synopsis: “Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.” – Taken from Goodreads
Okay, so I’m not going to lie the reason I originally picked up this book was because of the subject matter. The characters and plot points within this book were made to mirror the Manson family and their activities. I was definitely intrigued. I wasn’t sure if I was going to totally love it. But, I figured at the very least it would be interesting to see a different perspective on these events and figures.
I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was invested throughout the story. I continued to be interested throughout the book despite already knowing what the climax was to be. Many times I feel discouraged when reading a book that I know the ending or the plot twist. However, Cline wrote the novel in such a way that I was constantly wanting to hear more.
I think my appreciation for this book stems in part from the narrator. Throughout the novel we are seeing the story through the eyes of Evie Boyd a teenager who finds herself mixed up with the faux Manson family. It was refreshing to hear about the ideas and thoughts going through this young girls mind. Many times we see stories of young people becoming indoctrinated into cult like settings and wonder aloud “How could they allow themselves to get caught up into that?” This novel was a nice peek behind the curtain.
Throughout the novel there is a running commentary of our societies view on youth, especially our female youth. Evie is a young girl attempting to find her place and gain acceptance. This ultimately results in her turning to Suzanne and the other members of Russell’s family. Cline is very vocal on the role young women are forced to pay in society and speaks explicitly about this through Evie’s voice.
I believe any woman could relate to many of the statements made by Evie throughout the novel. In reading this story I gained an understanding and empathy for the women involved in these real life events. What they did will never be okay nor excused. However, it is very interesting to look at it from the perspective of the individuals involved rather than merely as an outsider.
Typically I do not enjoy the use of flashbacks and flashforwards in books. Cline however uses this technique effectively. It ultimately results in the reader learning about the events through the eyes of both the teenage version of Evie as well as the adult version of Evie. It was incredibly well done and necessary to the character development.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. A lot of the commentary on our society truly struck a cord within me while I was reading. Also, it was just really interesting to read about. If you have any interest in psychology or topics such as the Manson family definitely make sure to pick up this book.
What are your thoughts of reimagined real life events? Have you read this book? Would you want to?