A fascinating look at cult dynamics. The writing style is more poetry than prose, but that’s fitting here as a narrator so fractured couldn’t possibly be understood in logical, flowing script. Focusing on the inner dialogue of her protagonist, Ostow digs into the mind of a brainwashed teen, adrift and searching. Readers will come away with an unparalleled insight into the deranged mind of a cult victim.
It is the summer of 1969 and Melinda Jennings is fleeing the abusive childhood she suffered at the hands of her emotionally distant mother and perverted “Uncle” Jack. Adrift and desolate, she lands in the arms of Henry, a fictionalized Charles Manson, who introduces her to the unconditional love of family. Drug-addled and craving approval, Mel is soon hopelessly entrenched in Henry’s crazed bipolar message of love and community, violence and terror. (EGMONT, Apr., 384 pp., $17.99, ISBN: 9781606841556, HC, 14 & Up)