Evie Boyd is fourteen, caught in that space between childhood and womanhood. Sick of living the life that her parents want for her, being taken out of public school and being sent to boarding school. Then one fateful day, she spies Suzanne. Her long dark hair, her flashing eyes, her carefree manner. And Evie knows that's who she wants to be.
The Girls, the debut novel from Emma Cline, is a hotly marketed work. Appearing in several Summer Must Read lists, this book earns it's place. It's a loose imagining of the Manson Family murders, only told from the POV of one of the "supporting girls" at the ranch. It's also a story about a young woman discovering that the things she thought she knew, weren't really what they seemed. That there was so much more lurking under the surface, things she never realized until time gave her a different perspective.
Evie eventually follows Suzanne to the ranch, falling in love with her along the way. Only to find that Suzanne is fiercely loyal to Russell, the charismatic leader of the family. A group of people who are somehow "more". More enlightened, more loving, more open, more easily sucked into roles of Russell's making.
Most of the story is told in retrospect by an adult Evie. She's recently been thrown into a situation that reminds her of that fateful summer. The summer she belonged to something bigger than herself, something important, something that soured on the vine. Evie wants to be accepted, to be loved, to be important, and the Family gives her that chance. Until the night that Suzanne betrays Evie, the night that Evie winds up missing out on something horrible.
I enjoyed The Girls, it was an interesting take on the Manson Family, coming from the POV of one of the girls who was part of the family, but not directly involved with the murders. It's very much a feminist novel, and rather heavy handed in its disdain for the roles that are provided for women, both by men, and just as importantly, by other women. I don't know that I'd put it on my "Have to Have Everyone Read" list, but it's one that I will recommend to my readers. While nothing in it comes as a surprise, it is a wrenching coming of age novel.
The Girls: A Novel
Publisher: Random House; First Ediiton edition (June 14, 2016)