The Girls by Emma Cline

Emma Cline is quickly cementing herself as one of my favorite authors. I realize that this may be a little premature since The Girls is her first novel, but I stand by my statement. I cannot wait for her next book.

The Girls is a fictional examination of the Charles Mason girls. In this story Cline has replaced Charles with Russel and takes a deeper look and what would make a girl follow him. It is slightly eerie to watch the 14-year-old main character, Evie get sucked into Russel’s world at the Ranch. It is also a little terrifying to see how easily it could happen to any insecure young girl.

It all started when Evie sees a group of Russel’s girls at the park. She is struck by how free they seemed, how little they cared about what was around them. They were in their own world and Evie desperately wanted to join. Living with her recently divorced mother in a house that belonged to her movie start grandmother, Evie felt trapped. Like she was being forced into an image that didn’t suit her, and the looming prospect of boarding school wasn’t helping matters. After a dramatic falling out with her best friend, Evie quickly falls in with Russel’s right hand lady, Suzanne. Evie’s first visit to the ranch helps begin her transformation. The Ranch was a place where everyone was welcome and Russel was a master at making people follow his every word. Unfortunately, Evie’s life at the ranch begins to clash with her life at home and her blind faith in Russel and Suzanne helps blind her to the rapid downfall of the Ranch community. Luckily Evie is forced out of Russel’s inner circle before she is able to partake in the violent events that helped make Charles Manson and his girls so famous.

Cline cleverly divides the story into four parts. Each part beginning with a. now middle-aged, Evie looking back on her experience with Suzanne, before switching to a first person narration of the summer of 1969. Cline picks apart Evie, Suzanne and the other girls with a fine tooth comb, examining their motivation and comparing who they are on the Ranch to who they become during Russel’s trial. Evie begins the story as an insecure teenager who morphs into a free spirit before becoming afraid for her life as she realizes what Suzanne and Russel have done. This novel is a psychological examination of an event that has fascinated people for years. I am beyond excited to see what Emma Cline will write next.

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