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The Manson Women and Me
Cover of The Manson Women and Me
The Manson Women and Me
Monsters, Morality, and Murder
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The Manson Women and Me
In the summer of 1969, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel carried out horrific acts of butchery on the orders of the charismatic cult leader Charles Manson. But to anyone who knew them growing up, they were bright, promising girls, seemingly incapable of such an unfathomable crime.

Award-winning journalist Nikki Meredith began visiting Van Houten and Krenwinkel in prison to discover how they had changed during their incarceration. The more Meredith got to know them, the more she was lured into a deeper dilemma: What compels "normal" people to do unspeakable things?

The author's relationship with her subjects provides a chilling lens through which we gain insight into a particular kind of woman capable of a particular kind of brutality. Through their stories, Nikki Meredith takes readers on a dark journey into the very heart of evil.
The Manson Women and Me
In the summer of 1969, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel carried out horrific acts of butchery on the orders of the charismatic cult leader Charles Manson. But to anyone who knew them growing up, they were bright, promising girls, seemingly incapable of such an unfathomable crime.

Award-winning journalist Nikki Meredith began visiting Van Houten and Krenwinkel in prison to discover how they had changed during their incarceration. The more Meredith got to know them, the more she was lured into a deeper dilemma: What compels "normal" people to do unspeakable things?

The author's relationship with her subjects provides a chilling lens through which we gain insight into a particular kind of woman capable of a particular kind of brutality. Through their stories, Nikki Meredith takes readers on a dark journey into the very heart of evil.
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  • From the book When the killers were ultimately identified, the dread only intensified. Manson, the mastermind of the carnage, was scary. But the young women he controlled didn't look like anyone's idea of cold-blooded murderers. They looked like our sisters, our daughters, our friends—ourselves—and yet their bloodthirsty behavior was something out of a horror movie.

    Twenty years ago, I began visiting Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel in prison. I wanted to know if these women were radically different from the young women who carried out Charles Manson's barbaric orders in 1969. If they were different, how did they understand what happened?

    In grappling with the brutality of the events, I learned a great deal about human behavior, much of it disheartening, but some of it proof of our capacity as humans to transform ourselves, even those of us who have committed unspeakable acts.
About the Author-
  • Nikki Meredith is an award-winning journalist, a licensed clinical social worker, and a former probation officer. She has been a feature reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, the Marin Independent Journal, and the Pacific Sun. Her work has appeared in Parenting, Psychology Today, Health, USA Today, and Utne Reader. She lives near San Francisco. Visit her at www.nikkimeredith.com.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2018
    A personal and professional fascination informs this inquiry into various members of Charles Manson's family.In 1996, journalist and social worker Meredith wrote letters of interest to murderers Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, and their responses sparked a 20-year acquaintanceship that has given the author unprecedented access to these two "Manson Women." Lively Van Houten, now 68, and a consistently dour, cheerless Krenwinkel, 70, both contributed hours of conversation as the author probed the hijacked psyche of each by a cunning Manson, their sinister detachment from the 1969 murders, and their personal methods of deprogramming from their cult affiliation. Meredith broadens her scope with the inclusion of associated analysis and interviews with Stephen Kay, a prosecutor on the Manson trial, and profiles of followers like Catherine Share, Manson's core recruiter of young women. (Ironically, both Kay and Share were fellow classmates of Meredith's in high school). The author's field research yields mixed results. Her accounts of afternoons spent with Van Houten's permanently scarred mother are deeply poignant and revelatory, while an encounter with "startlingly manicured" family member Susan Atkins, a baffling visit to Krenwinkel's dementia-addled father in an Idaho nursing home, or her trek across Death Valley to scrutinize Manson's former desert outpost are largely unremarkable. More impressive are Meredith's passionate discussions of psychological influence and cult control, and she ties these themes into her own history of growing up Jewish and facing the ever present specter of anti-Semitism. She also discusses the plight of her brother, who committed armed robbery as a youth and was imprisoned--not far from the women's facility where Van Houten and Krenwinkel remain today. The author also cogently deliberates on the complicated nature of remorse and how organized religion's "automatic redemption" still prevents Krenwinkel (and many other wrongdoers) from truly acknowledging their culpability and their loss of humanity.An overlong and uneven but intermittently fascinating study of human behavior motivated by evil.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus Reviews Praise for THE MANSON WOMEN AND ME

    "A fascinating study of human behavior motivated by evil. . . . deeply poignant and revelatory. Meredith's passionate discussions of psychological influence and cult control are fascinating, and she ties these themes into her own history of growing up Jewish and facing the ever-present specter of anti-Semitism."
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