If you’ve recently seen “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” and are now fascinated with the Manson cult killings in 1969, this novel shares a truly unique perspective of the shocking horror. Emma Cline perfectly integrates a coming of age story with the evolution of a cult dynamic as the motives of the leader and his followers become increasingly dark. The plot is captivating and the characters complex; this is a quick and exciting read.
Evie, the main character of the novel, is a young and isolated girl who is drawn in by the free-spirit of three older girls she sees in the park. As she starts to spend increasingly more time with them, she follows the girls to the infamous ranch where Charles Manson’s cult begins to form. While the ranch is beat down and desolate, Evie is captivated by her newfound independence and the charm of the people who live there. Thus, she is unable to see the violent foreshadowing of Manson and his girls’ plan.
The multi-dimensional pull of this novel makes it attractive to a wide range of audiences. It’s part historical fiction and part an insightful and well-written analysis of adolescence and the pervasive struggle to fit in. Cline perfectly captures the reliance between young girls and their friends, and uses it to explain Evie’s unthinkable decision to pursue life in a cult. The portrayal of the cult from Evie’s perspective makes the story more intriguing; it provides an angle no one has seen.
It’s really interesting to imagine how the cult went from a group of vagabond hippies to a group of pre-meditated murderers. The introduction to Manson’s girls gives them another dimension that helps the reader understand the humanity behind this shocking dynamic, and how they slowly slip into the violent downturn of the cult.
This novel is great for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding to some of the most significant events throughout history; the beauty of historical fiction. It’ll leave you feeling exhilarated and perhaps looking at those around you with a new inquisitive perspective.
Cover Photo: Vox