Everybody wants to belong.
After her best friend ditches her, fourteen-year old Evie has to spend her summer wandering around the town alone. That’s when she notices the girls. They’re raggedy around the edges, with long hair blowing freely in the breeze. They’re misfits, who shoplift and break into people’s homes and even scrounge for food in dumpsters. But there’s something magical about them. They live without rules in a big old house near a creek and have wild parties at night around bonfires and burning cars. Their leader, a charismatic musician named Russell, teaches them about free love and togetherness.
At the Ranch, Evie finds her soulmate in Suzanne, a dark-haired girl who acts almost like a mother-figure to the other girls. The ease and beauty of their intimate friendship is the heart of this novel. The author shows just how easy it would would be to step on to the wrong path. If only because the promise of love and acceptance far outweighs the cons.
The year is 1969, which is no coincidence. It’s the same year the Manson Family killed five people in a premeditated home invasion, including pregnant movie star Sharon Tate.
Emma Cline has crafted an exquisite book that explores the inner-workings of a cult, which is quite clearly modelled after the Manson Family. But that’s not what makes this book so fascinating. Cline knows how people tick.
Her beautiful prose animates our inner-most thoughts, even those we can’t fully articulate. Loneliness, despair, the tenderness and fierce loyalty we feel for our friends, the behaviour we put up with just because we want to be accepted.
“Connie studied me with cold wonder, like I’d betrayed her, and maybe I had. I’d done what we were not supposed to do. Illuminated a slice of private weakness, exposed the twitchy rabbit heart.”
“Caroline’s desire to be invited was so blatant that I felt almost ashamed. But it didn’t stop me from following Suzanne outside…”
“Of course she would love Russell if he lived in a mansion in Marin, had gardenias floating in his pool, and charged rich women fifty dollars for an astrology reading. How transparent she seemed to me then, always on guard against anything lesser than, …”
I love this book so much.
I tried so hard to read slower so that I could have more time with it. But it’s impossible. Each page carried me effortlessly on to the next until all too soon, there was no more.
It’s been a while since a book absorbed me so much. The last time this happened was with China Mieville’s Kraken. (Strangely enough also about a cult – in that instance a giant squid cult)
I’m going to read The Girls again, just to experience the wonder a second time.
You can see more of my LEGO stories on Tumblr.