Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

I received an advanced reader’s copy of The Girls both from NetGalley and Penguin Random House for an honest review.

TheGirlsI feel I should fully disclose that I have a slight obsession with cults and communes. This is an all around fascination with both fictional and factual accounts of life within these groups. There is something I find intriguing with the admiration of charismatic leaders and the sense of desperately wanting to belong and find identity.

The above is partially why, The Girls by Emma Cline is thus far my favorite book of the year. Yes, we are only in June and something could beat it, but The Girls did way more for me than just the thrill of the Manson Family-eqsue subject matter. Cline’s words are beautiful. I love an author that can paint a scene, but with The Girls, I could taste the soggy end of a joint, feel the sticky heat, and smell molding wood of the house.

What I loved about The Girls is that the story doesn’t so much focus on the charismatic leader, Russell, but rather is from the point of view of a woman, Evie. Evie spent much of the summer of 1969 at age fourteen on the ranch. We learn her story as she looks back to that time and her admiration for the girls in the group, and one girl in particular, Suzanne. Evie struggles through her parents’ divorce and the thought of the boarding school which waits for her once summer ends.  All the while, she’s figuring out how to live in her changing body and use her newfound sexuality.

It was interesting to see the pieces of the Manson Family that Cline peppered throughout the novel. We see the Charles Manson character in cult-leader, Russell. Mitch played a hybrid of musician Brian Wilson and producer Terry Melcher. Suzanne seemed to be Susan Atkins doppelganger even with a nod to her name. If you are at all interested in learning more about the time of the Manson Family, I highly suggest listening to the Charles Manson’s Hollywood series of the podcast, You Must Remember This.

The Girls is an addition to the recent wave of debut novels that knock you off your feet. I cannot wait to see what Emma Cline comes out with next. She’s already been added to my auto-buy list. Even though I had received a copy of The Girls via NetGalley for review, I stood in line to get a signed copy at the Penguin Random House booth at BEA. That was solidly one of the best decisions I made at BEA! Pre-order or put The Girls on your hold list now for its June 14th release date.

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Review: Seed by Lisa Heathfield

I received a copy of the ebook Seed by Lisa Heathfield from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Seed

The family living at a farm called Seed worships Nature (yes, capital N Nature) as an entity capable of bringing both joy and punishment. Pearl is fifteen and is baffled by the fact that her stomach is bleeding. She rushes to find an elder woman family member who can help save her from certain death. No, of course Pearl isn’t dying. She got her period. But the menstrual cycle is something that has been left out of the education Pearl has received within this cult.

Education is just one of several things that cult-leader Papa S has been negligent with among his flock of family members. There is also a lack of medicine, no experience with modernity, and strange punishments given as requested by Nature directly through her prophet, Papa S.  Seed is home to couple of other men, a handful of women who seem to be in their 20s, three teenagers and two younger children. When not listening to the teachings of Papa S, the people of Seed farm, fix car engines and make skirts to sell at a local market.

Soon a new family shows up; the first new folks in Pearl’s memory.  She is drawn to the teenage boy, Ellis, and what his knowledge of “Outside” brings. As the teens begin to question the purpose of Seed and whether or not they are truly happy there, Nature seems to be doling out more severe punishments. The group of teens must weigh what they may gain by leaving, against what may happen to who they leave behind.

I enjoyed this book.  Though, I felt I didn’t get to know many of the secondary characters too well.  It was a great glimpse into how Pearl views her family and Seed, but I would have liked to gotten to know more of a history. How was Seed founded?  Who are these women and why are they subservient?  What are these men doing when they lead a woman or girl away by the hand? Where did these rituals come from? There is a lot you must infer, which makes it so I am not entirely sure Seed was as horrible as I made it out to be; as I assume the worst in most cases. But perhaps that is the point, to have us assume our worst nightmare is happening behind the closed doors.

I’d love to read a sequel or even better, a prequel. A solid YA series could be built around Seed. This premise of cults/communes is one I love and I want to know more about all of the characters.