Member of the Family, by Dianne Lake (Review)

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Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Mason, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties
by Dianne Lake

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime, Memoir

Length: 384 Pages

Release date: October 24, 2017

Publisher: William Morrow

Synopsis: 

In this poignant and disturbing memoir of lost innocence, coercion, survival, and healing, Dianne Lake chronicles her years with Charles Manson, revealing for the first time how she became the youngest member of his Family and offering new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminals and life as one of his “girls”

At age fourteen Dianne Lake—with little more than a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them—became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. Over the course of two years, the impressionable teenager endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as the harsh realities and looming darkness of Charles Manson’s true nature revealed itself. From Spahn ranch and the group acid trips, to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s dangerous messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness as she lived it.

Though she never participated in any of the group’s gruesome crimes and was purposely insulated from them, Dianne was arrested with the rest of the Manson Family, and eventually learned enough to join the prosecution’s case against them. With the help of good Samaritans, including the cop who first arrested her and later adopted her, the courageous young woman eventually found redemption and grew up to lead an ordinary life.

While much has been written about Charles Manson, this riveting account from an actual Family member is a chilling portrait that recreates in vivid detail one of the most horrifying and fascinating chapters in modern American history.

Member of the Family includes 16 pages of photographs.

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Member of the Family was not entirely what I expected, and I think in this case that was a good thing. A pretty significant portion of the book takes place before Charles Manson was ever on Dianne Lake’s radar, and this makes for a pretty interesting character study in what made Lake vulnerable to be recruited into a cult. She was just 14 years old and her parents had more or less checked out. Like many who find themselves recruited into cults, Lake was feeling incredibly isolated and desperate for some sense of belonging and stability. Charlie’s “family” seemed like they could provide that for her, and the prospect of being treated as an adult was also enticing to an adolescent.

Lake was not present for any of the infamous murders committed by Manson’s followers, although she was in the cult at the time the crimes occurred. Consequently, the book is devoid of any graphic descriptions of the group’s murder spree (something I think we can all do without.) However, the book should come with a content warning for physical and sexual abuse of a child. Lake suffered what she only later recognized as sexual abuse at the hands of older men starting from a very young age. This left her primed to be subject to Manson’s influence, as that behavior had been normalized for her.

Member of the Family is a difficult read at times, but an excellent first-hand exploration of the before, during, and after of becoming entrenched in a violent cult. Lake seems to have built a normal and healthy life for herself in the aftermath, keeping out of the public eye. I definitely recommend this book to true crime readers or people who are interested in the psychology behind cults.

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Thank you for reading! Have you read any good true crime books lately? Let me know in the comments!

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Review – This Will Only Hurt a Little, by Busy Philipps


This Will Only Hurt a Little
by Busy Philipps

Genre: Autobiography, Memoir

Length: 288 Pages

Release date: October 23, 2018

Publisher: Touchstone

Synopsis: 

A memoir by the beloved comedic actress known for her roles on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and Cougar Town who has become “the breakout star on Instagram stories…imagine I Love Lucy mixed with a modern lifestyle guru” (The New Yorker).

Busy Philipps’s autobiographical book offers the same unfiltered and candid storytelling that her Instagram followers have come to know and love, from growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona and her painful and painfully funny teen years, to her life as a working actress, mother, and famous best friend.

Busy is the rare entertainer whose impressive arsenal of talents as an actress is equally matched by her storytelling ability, sense of humor, and sharp observations about life, love, and motherhood. Her conversational writing reminds us what we love about her on screens large and small. From film to television to Instagram, Busy delightfully showcases her wry humor and her willingness to bare it all.

I’ve been waiting my whole life to write this book. I’m just so grateful someone asked. Otherwise, what was the point of any of it? 

rating

three

“I’ve determined that just about everyone feels left out; it just comes down to how you handle it. I haven’t handled it the best, historically speaking. And truthfully, isn’t there something incredible about the fact that we all feel left out? Shouldn’t that somehow make us all feel a little less alone?” 

This Will Only Hurt a Little is unpolished, but surprisingly heartfelt and raw. This celebrity memoir reads like Busy Philipps herself is recounting her life for you over a few glasses of wine; the tone is casual, humorous, and occasionally brimming with emotion.

I think the biggest drawback for this memoir is that it sometimes feels like Busy is trying too hard to be #relatable, emphasizing often how much she felt like an outsider in Hollywood. Sure, she’s a wealthy celebrity, but she’s no Angelina Jolie, so she’s practically one of us little people, am I right? Honestly, I’m not faulting her for this as a person; the desire to connect and be understood is universal, and Busy is in this rare in-between state of being a celeb without ever really “making it” that makes her feel alienated from both the A-list celebrities and from average people. I get it. But the fact is her struggles are not relatable to the vast majority of people. That’s part of what makes her interesting. So just own that.

Regardless, I enjoyed this memoir a lot overall. Busy’s sense of humor shines through in every chapter, but she also gets almost painfully personal at times. It was revealed shortly before the memoir came out, but it bears repeating here in case anyone needs the trigger warning: Busy details the rape she suffered as a young teen and the ways she struggled to process it in the aftermath. She didn’t view it as rape at the time and still seems to struggle to do so. We’ve all heard those “grey area” assault stories where the victim rationalizes what happened, thinking that if perhaps they had been more clear or forceful in their protestations, things would have gone differently.

Busy was unable to view what happened to her as rape. What followed was a long bout of promiscuity and a struggle to reconnect with her sense of self worth. This story, while surely painful for Busy to share, is one of the biggest strengths of her memoir, and stands in stark contrast to her struggles in Hollywood. Busy’s voice felt authentic and raw, and there are surely a lot of girls and women out there with similar stories who will be made to feel less alone by hearing her story.

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Thank you for reading! Have you read any celebrity memoirs? Discuss your favorites in the comments!

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