The Girls by Emma Cline is an indelible portrait of girls and of the women they become (cover blurb). Northern California, 1960s – Evie Boyd is a bored teen who comes across some free spirits in the park. She’s drawn to their sense of freedom and danger. She’s in thrall of Suzanne, the older girl, who accepts her into the group. Happy to have friends, a place to hang, and a wide-eyed look and participation in drugs, drink, and sex, Evie is grateful for the attention. She finally feels like she belongs to something. Her parents are newly divorced and are finding their way with new relationships. Evie, ever the good girl, rebels and it seems to her like no responsible adult in her life really cares.
Russell is the charismatic cult leader. The group squat on a ranch, dumpster dive for food, and count on theft for money. Evie in her desperation to be accepted does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong. (cover blurb). While the story (think Mansons) seems familiar, Cline does a superb job of creating fresh characters, giving us a past and present perspective, and a slightly different spin. The writing is fresh and vivid.
p. 28 All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that told me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you – the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.
p. 276 Her planning wasn’t actually about making anything different – she was just rearranging the same known quantities, puzzling out a new order like life was an extended seating chart.
p. 281 Whatever instincts they’d ever had – the weak twinge in the gut, a gnaw of concern – had become inaudible.
The Girls by Emma Cline is a tight taut read. You’ll hold your breath at times and exhale loudly at the end.