Here’s the thing about “The Girls” (and it’s not that Emma Cline is 27, which she is. A marvel!): It’s really as good and un-put-downable a novel as everyone has been saying. It’s spooky and delicious and vivid and also, kinda sad. Go get yourself a copy.

Narrator Evie Boyd looks back on a youthful blip spent among a group clearly reminiscent of the Manson Family. (Maybe don’t read this at night? Next thing you know: Wikipedia deep dive on the real-life crew. Bananas.) Her introduction to the scene comes courtesy not of the ringleader but one of his older teenage girl acolytes she spots one day in a park. The combining factors of a scattered mother, an oblivious father, and a set of disappointing friends—in other words, loneliness—lands Evie smack dab in the orbit of the Mansonlike cult. Her teen solitude teeters on desperation, and Cline nimbly illuminates how Evie stays enthralled with her new friends, even as her universe takes on a grimmer and grimier shadow.

If you’re familiar with the horrors of that summer in 1969 L.A., you know the gruesome gist of what’s coming, and you could gobble your way through the pages to get to it. But the crimes aren’t the main event. There’s a sweetness in Evie’s interior revelations, and also in Cline’s empathy for her.

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