Book Review: Join a cult this summer with The Girls

Picture the dark parts of human history, the moments completely devoid of warmth or compassion. None of them were inevitable, but a first step was taken to the inexorable, a slight deviation from the current that turned into a whirlpool from which nothing could escape.

Emma Cline’s startlingly assured debut The Girls follows such a path, depicting the step-by-step process through which a wayward girl finds herself sucked into a movement that will lead to murder. “There was just this banal sense of being moved along the bright river of whatever was going to happen,” narrator Evie Boyd remembers, with an air of detachment that crystallizes rather than obscures the book’s powerful pangs of regret and nostalgia. With hindsight, she’s mildly surprised “that it could be as easy as this.”

The Girls is mostly set at the close of the 1960s, the tired end of a violent …

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