Archive for June, 2011

As someone familiar with the mystique surrounding the Manson Family Murders, I was intrigued by the premise of Micol Ostow’s book. Her novel, loosely based on the Helter Skelter events of 1969, explores the perspective of one of Manson’s  followers.


FAMILY did not disappoint. The novel’s style, episodic verse, is a perfect fit for Mel’s story–jagged words and thoughts are plucked from her mind at all the right moments.

Mel, an emotionally broken young woman, abandons her home and drifts toward San Fransisco. When she meets Henry, she is drawn to him–his soft words and his warm embrace seem to fill all her hollow places, but Henry’s love exacts a price. In “the family”, everything belongs to everyone…of course, Henry’s appetites require that hearts and minds and souls and sinew belong to him alone.

Henry is the now, the supernova, burning bright. For Mel, Henry is the undertow.

As Mel is pulled into the dark deeps, I bit my nails and feverishly turned pages. All at once, I was angry and afraid. Mel’s descent is terrifying, but I could not help but feel pangs of compassion for the broken girl, the ruined psyche so abused and driven to madness. The ending comes with a twist, but even in the final pages, even when I knew the inexorable climax, I could not turn away from Melinda.

I mourned for her fall, even as I gasped at the blood on her hands.

FAMILY is a book I will not soon forget.