By Jennifer, Everett Public Library staff
The version of the post you’re reading didn’t exist until a couple hours ago. I wrote the first draft last week, read parts of it and thought: ‘Yeah….no. I can’t let that go out into the world. It’d probably invite something evil in. Or a lawsuit.’ So I started rewriting, and by rewriting I mean watching YouTube clips of people falling down. That always cheers me up. I’m looking forward to the Olympics not because I like ice skating but because I like watching the skaters go spinning over the ice on their butts. As the immortal Amy Winehouse said “You know I’m no good.”
This might be a goofy post on a library’s blog, but like a lot of writing it’s kind of like therapy even if I’m just writing about a book. I swear I was one “The power of Christ compels you!” away from pushing a priest out a window while writing this one. But like a good morning scratch, this post drew a little blood in places but that’s what Band-Aids are for.
I was a late bloomer when it came to falling in love. Or what felt like love. I now know that falling in love is 38% wonderful and 62% doing a face plant into a big pile of excrement. I was 30 and seriously lacking some judgment when it came to an older man, a friend of the family. I fell in love with a man I’ll refer to as Il Douche (because seriously, this guy was the biggest douchebag on the planet) who was already juggling a couple different women. I was a goner. I worshipped him. I was so lost I would’ve pulled a Mary Magdalene and washed his feet with my hair. It was like that. That bad. That good.
Tell me you love me
I bought him lunches I couldn’t afford. Overdrew my bank account a couple of times. And all I got in return was him complaining about how crazy his girlfriends were. I let him hold my own feelings against me like a gun to my temple. He used those feelings and I was inexperienced enough to think that’s how it was all supposed to go.
Tell me you love me
So when I dove into Emma Cline’s “The Girls,” I felt that gut-wrenching stranglehold a persuasive man has over some women. But in Cline’s book, that love takes an even darker turn.
Picture it: California, 1969. Evie is a 14-year-old girl on the cusp of something. She just doesn’t know what that something is yet. She’s bored out of her mind. Her mother and father are divorced and her mother is entering an ‘It’s all about me’ phase, barely noticing her daughter and dating some sketchy dudes. Evie’s father lives elsewhere with his much younger girlfriend. Come September, Evie is going to be shipped off to boarding school.
The summer unwinds in a slow furious rhythm. Nothing is happening; nothing is ever going to change. You remember what 14 felt like. Nothing is happening fast enough. But then Evie sees a group of girls in the park who are the epitome of ‘Dance like no one is watching.’ One girl, who is a few years older than Evie, attracts her. Evie is lonely. She and her best friend are drifting apart and she’s on her own a lot. She watches the girls dumpster dive for food. They’re feral and beautiful and frightening.
Evie doesn’t think she’ll see the girls again but by chance she meets Suzanne, the dark-haired girl who first caught her attention, in a drugstore and decides to prove she’s a badass by stealing toilet paper for Suzanne. Practical thieves, huh? At the age of 14 I knew girls who were stealing makeup and hair clips (not me, not because I’m a goody-goody but because I don’t have a good poker face) but in 1969 ragamuffins needed toilet paper. Evie steals the TP and her part in the sordid ‘Family’ begins.
Suzanne takes Evie to an abandoned ranch where a group of young people have been squatting and worshipping a douchebag named Russell. The girls tell Evie: “He sees every part of you.” They all have sex with him and all I could imagine was a giant chore chart nailed to the wall with Venn diagrams showing whose night it was to sleep with Russell. A famous musician named Mitch has promised Russell that he’ll be rich and famous with his musical skills. He’s going to be FAMOUS.
There’s a load of drug taking, snorting, smoking, a bunch of uncomfortable sounding sex and nobody has a stick of deodorant but hey, it’s the 60s. In a moment of clarity, Suzanne asks Evie if she wants to go home. Evie thinks about her empty house, her mother out on dates or going on diet cleanses and realizes there’s no way she’s going home. She’s hooked on the Family. I can believe that at the age of 14 (or 30) if someone older showered me with affection it would be addictive.
Evie begins to steal money for the Family. The ranch is all love and freedom and blah, blah, blah but the shine begins to wear off and it begins to take on a sinister glare. Mitch, the man who told Russell he was going to make him famous, backs out citing money troubles. Everything becomes a sign. The very stars in the night sky become a portent of things to come. The heavens whisper something harmoniously relevant to members of the Family. But remember the amount of drugs these people were ingesting. You’ve read about my sordid relationship with Benadryl. I can’t imagine doing hard drugs and trying to tie my shoes. Maybe that’s why hippies never wore shoes.
The ‘we love and support everybody’ feeling at the ranch sours. Evie’s still grasping at the feeling of being wanted and being shown love. One evening the Family packs into a car and heads into the night. They’re going to pay Mitch a ‘visit.’ Russell stays behind at the ranch. Evie knows something bad is about to go down. Suzanne is not herself or maybe she’s more of the self Evie doesn’t know. Suzanne demands the car be stopped and tells Evie to get out in the middle of nowhere. The car speeds away to make gruesome history.
What would have happened to Evie had she gone along that night? Who would she have become? This book delves into what could have been and what was.