“I knew how easily it could happen, the past at hand, like the helpless cognitive slip of an optical illusion. The tone of a day linked to some particular item: my mother’s chiffon scarf, the humidity of a cut pumpkin. Certain patterns of shade. Even the flash of sunlight on the hood of a white car could cause a momentary ripple in me, allowing a slim space of return.”
The Girls by Emma Cline was a sumptuous summer read. It’s haunting and dark, but almost beachy in its breezy readability. In the book, Evie recalls the summer of her adolescence when she became involved with a charismatic cult leader and his followers. What begins as a “coming of age” tale devolves into a bloody tragedy, akin to the Manson Murders. The writing is sexy and evocative, with beautiful prose you can sink your teeth into.
Evie is so sad and tragic, both as an adult and a teenager. As an adolescent, she feels insecure, abandoned by both her parents, and unsatisfied in her single friendship. Her life completely changes one summer when she meets a vivacious, magnetic young woman. Evie’s drawn to this woman and, by extension, the cult she’s a part of. Seeing the love and community in this “family,” Evie is hooked. She finally feels like she belongs, that she’s found her people.
But all is not well; this is the story of a cult that ends in murder, after all. Evie begins stealing from her actual family, spends less and less time at home, and is raped by the male cult leader. She has to navigate the complexities of the cult, her personal family problems, and adolescence, all as a very young 14-year-old girl.
I would highly recommend The Girls, and Helter Skelter is requisite reading afterwards. Be sure to enjoy The Girls sitting in a meadow, braiding daisy chain crowns and devouring rainbow popsicles.