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The Girls Bets On...

The Girls

June 2016

THE GIRLS by Emma Cline is set in Northern California at the end of the '60s. The protagonist is Evie Boyd, a lonely teenager drawn to a group of girls who hang out in her town, frolicking and living life with reckless abandon. She is particularly enamored of Suzanne, an older aloof girl. She follows these women into their world, which is a cult where they are led by a charismatic leader on a ranch on the outskirts of town. Swept up, she longs to be part of them, but is too naive to notice that things are spinning wildly out of control and an act of violence is about to unravel her newfound life.

The book opens in the present day. Evie, who is middle-aged and single, is house sitting at a friend’s home when she wakes up to noises as someone is making his or her way into the house. Frightened, she finds that the intruders are her friend’s son and his girlfriend, and they did not know she was there. Seeing them so cavalier and free dredges up memories of her past and launches her back into her reckless teen memories as she watches these two with a jaded lens. She envies them their carefree lives, while at the same time is on edge by what they might do.

There are many parallels to the Manson cult here; Russell could be Charlie, and the girls make up the tribe who followed him. We all know what happened on the ranch and the crimes committed beyond it, but here the focus is on the girls, not the madman who led them and the crimes. She captures the teenage sense of wanting to belong, be noticed and be recognized, the need to be a part of something instead of standing outside of it.

Emma’s writing is beautiful. I found myself rereading sentences, because they were so well done. She is a talent, and there are moments when it’s hard to believe that she still is in her 20s. Her perspective is that of someone older. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a luncheon. She talked about how she wrote this book in a shed in her friend’s Brooklyn backyard where she had no access to the internet. She just dug in and wrote. She was fairly cut off from all that was going on in the world, and instead her head was firmly entrenched in California in the ’60s. She grew up in California and remembers feeling that the Manson cult had haunted those hills.

THE GIRLS is brisk and left me wondering what Emma is going to write next --- and eagerly anticipating it!

The Girls
by Emma Cline