Cline's debut is a unique coming of age novel based on the 1969 sensational Tate murder case, a horrific killing committed by Charles Manson and his "girls.” The novel's effectiveness comes through the powerful first-person narrative, which is so attuned to adolescent perceptions. Cline is spot on when it comes to describing adolescent awkwardness, the yearning to be accepted, sexual awakenings and confusion. She nails the era and the ‘60’s California vibe, describes the appeal of the cult and sucks readers in as easily as Evie is lured into the lives of the girls. Her realistic, articulate prose carries the book forward mesmerizing readers with it’s seductive tone and leaving them knowing this will haunt their thoughts.
Fifty-five-year-old Evie Boyd lives with regret. She’s staying at a friend’s when his teenage son and girlfriend resurrect her past: the summer of 1969 and her association with an infamous cult leader and his coterie of young women. Evie is 14, her parents recently divorced, her best friend is moving away and she is yearning for love and acceptance when she see three girls walk through the park. She is fascinated by their seemingly carefree attitudes and the aura of danger that envelops them. It’s fate that her bike chain breaks and the girls pick her up in their van. Donna, Helen and Suzanne bring her to the “ranch” to meet Russell, their magnetic leader. Evie idolizes Suzanne, longing for her attention and affection and continues to commute between home and the ranch, staying for days at a time. She passes Russell’s test, even spending a night with the famous musician Russell is sure will get him a recording contract. As she falls under Suzanne’s spell Evie is sucked into the cult. Yet, at the last minute, Suzanne thrusts her away. Evie comes to believe Suzanne saved her from joining in the murder, yet the ramifications of that summer last a lifetime. (RANDOM HOUSE, Jun., 384 pp., $27.00)