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The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder

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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. At their murder trial the following year, lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi described the two so-called Manson Women as "human monsters." But to anyone who knew them growing up, they were bright, promising girls, 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. At their murder trial the following year, lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi described the two so-called Manson Women as "human monsters." 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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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. At their murder trial the following year, lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi described the two so-called Manson Women as "human monsters." But to anyone who knew them growing up, they were bright, promising girls, 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. At their murder trial the following year, lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi described the two so-called Manson Women as "human monsters." 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.

30 review for The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    This book is severely lacking focus: Although it is marketed as being a current portrait of Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, it is in fact a memoir of Nikki Meredith that contains parts in which she talks to the aforementioned women and some of their relatives. I guess that Meredith's basic question was how these women were able to commit such heinous crimes, but instead of taking a journalistic or research-based approach, she chooses to a) radically relate all incidents to her own lif This book is severely lacking focus: Although it is marketed as being a current portrait of Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, it is in fact a memoir of Nikki Meredith that contains parts in which she talks to the aforementioned women and some of their relatives. I guess that Meredith's basic question was how these women were able to commit such heinous crimes, but instead of taking a journalistic or research-based approach, she chooses to a) radically relate all incidents to her own life and b) superficially compare them to other, completely unrelated atrocities. Unsurprisingly, this turns the whole book into a hot mess in which we learn a lot about Meredith and almost nothing about Van Houten and Krenwinkel. Don't get me wrong: It is legitimate question to ask through which lenses we judge our environment or to ponder how such crimes influence our own lives. There is a lot of research about this, especially in the fields of media studies and psychology, none of which is cited in the book. We are getting anecdotes instead: Meredith's brother went to jail, just like Van Houten and Krenwinkel (completely different and unrelated crime of course). The parents of her ex-boyfriend were anti-Semites and despised her for her Jewsih heritage (the victims of the Manson murders were also innocent and hated and killed for no reason). Meredith's ex-boyfriend hit her (violence). Meredith traveled to Germany and Rwanda, where terrible genocides took place. Which brings us straight to the next issue here: It simply makes no sense to throw all kinds of atrocities in the mix and compare them to the Manson murders: The Holocaust! Rwanda! Abu Ghraib! The Heaven's Gate sect! ISIS! Of course you will gain zero insight that way, because there is no universal formula as to why people behave violently. What causes myriads of historians and political scientists to dissect these events over the course of whole lifetimes is to find out the specific aspects that came into play and how they were interrelated. The commonalities between these crimes are obviously banal, because they are the lowest common denominator. Meredith talks about mirror neurons and the Stanford Prison Experiment as if this was cutting-edge insight and not common knowledge. The lack of focus also shows in the writing itself, which meanders on and on and gives a myriad of details that are completely irrelevant: Meredith once bought a pair of wooden shoes in Amsterdam for her high school teacher. She went to Mommy and Me swim classes with her daughter. Once she went dress-shopping with her mom and then they had lunch at the Pig'n Whistle a few blocks up Hollywood Boulevard from the Broadway. What is the function of these remarks in the context of this book? They serve no purpose at all. And there are logical inconsistencies that Meredith herself is even aware of: "None of the above has anything directly to do with Catherine (Share), but in my mind, it's always been connected." Well, good for you, but why are you informing me about it? Regarding the closed-down nuclear reactor close to the prison, she writes: "(...) it was hard to separate my uneasiness about lingering radiation from the horror I always felt whenever I thought about the murders, the murderers and the victims." Seriously? And then, of course, when she visits Manson's ranch: "The sight of that comet that night in Death Valley struck me as synchronistic, another "sign" connected to the murders. For the life of me now, I can't remember what I thought it was a sign of (...)". I rest my case. Plus there are some not well thought-out passages: The prison system is a "totalitarian regime" - there is certainly a lot wrong with the prison system, but to use this term for it after writing page after page about the Nazis is a little thoughtless, to say the least. Meredith's father believed that people should pay taxes, which is a "Marxist principle"? Nope. And of course there's confusion about the terms Communist, Marxist and Stalinist - but why are we even dealing with that in a book about, yes, Krenwinkel and Van Houten? Oh, and if you want to meet some "soma-types", you have to go to the milk bar in A Clockwork Orange, psychology discusses somatotypes, or did discuss them, because the concept is outdated. But good to know that Meredith's ex-boyfriend was mesomorphic (WTF). It should be noted that Meredith was an advocate for Van Houten's release - as I am no mental health professional, have never met Van Houten and accordingly cannot judge whether she still poses a threat to society, I have no position on this. The way Meredith slams prosecutor Stephen Kay though ignores the main point here: When he speaks out in favor of releasing Van Houten and something happens, who will be blamed? It's strange to read her downright ruinous remarks after all those pages about empathy. To be fair, Meredith's conversations with Van Houten and Krenwinkel as well as some of their relatives are interesting, but they are buried under ... stuff? This concept just does not work. This could have been so much better!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bernadette

    3.5 Stars. As a child I had a fascination with the Manson killings. I read at a very early age and I used to steal my older brother’s books to read at night when I should have been asleep (then hid the books under my mattress). One of the books I should NOT have read was Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter. Understandably, I was plagued by nightmares that baffled my parents. On the news, I remember seeing the girls with their bald heads and carvings on their foreheads. The Manson Girls and Me: Mon 3.5 Stars. As a child I had a fascination with the Manson killings. I read at a very early age and I used to steal my older brother’s books to read at night when I should have been asleep (then hid the books under my mattress). One of the books I should NOT have read was Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter. Understandably, I was plagued by nightmares that baffled my parents. On the news, I remember seeing the girls with their bald heads and carvings on their foreheads. The Manson Girls and Me: Monsters, Morality and Murder by Nikki Meredith is a non-fiction book that details the author’s relationship to two of these girls, convicted killers Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel. Through twenty years of letters and jail visits with the two women, Ms. Meredith attempts to deconstruct the reasons that Krenwinkel and Van Houten to commit horrendous acts of violence. More astonishing is their complete lack of remorse, although that changes as they mature. Meredith’s interviews with the women are interesting, but the book was difficult for me to get through and I did find myself skimming at times. The author spends much of the book writing about herself and her connections, which are sometimes tenuous, to people involved in the case. The book lacks focus and moves from interviews with the murderers to Meredith’s thoughts about other horrific crimes and even genocide. The title suggests that the book is intended to be about the author’s relationship with the killers, but I felt that the book focused too much on the author. It is interesting to read about Manson’s manipulation of young women, using the same techniques as other infamous cult leaders. Throw drugs into the mix, and it becomes somewhat clearer how he was able to convince these young women to do the unspeakable. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    *TUDOR^QUEEN* (on hiatus)

    Thank you to the publisher Kensington Books who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley. This book focuses primarily on Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, members of the notorious Manson family imprisoned since the 1970s involving the Sharon Tate and LaBianca murders in LA. While author Nikki Meredith also interviewed former Manson member Tex Watson in prison, she established a twenty-year relationship visiting Van Houten and Krenwinkel at the Frontera prison where they both are inm Thank you to the publisher Kensington Books who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley. This book focuses primarily on Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, members of the notorious Manson family imprisoned since the 1970s involving the Sharon Tate and LaBianca murders in LA. While author Nikki Meredith also interviewed former Manson member Tex Watson in prison, she established a twenty-year relationship visiting Van Houten and Krenwinkel at the Frontera prison where they both are inmates. When the author initially broached interviewing these women, she also reached out to fellow former Manson family member Susan Atkins, also an inmate at Frontera. Although Atkins initially seemed open to it, she ultimately denied access claiming it would interfere with another media project she was involved with. In hindsight, Nikki Meredith was relieved of the abandoned Atkins interview opportunity; she sensed an inherit evil about Atkins that she did not find in Van Houten and Krenwinkel. Atkins died in prison in 2009 from brain cancer. Not only is this book about the Manson women, but about the author herself, and some connections she has to people involved in the Manson/LaBianca orbit. She was high school friends with a girl named Catherine Share who later became Manson family member and recruiter "Gypsy". She also was high school friends with Stephen Kay, who became deputy district attorney in LA, working directly under lead Manson prosecutor Victor Bugliosi during that trial. She also has the experience of her brother having spent a short time in prison, and leading a rehabilitated, meaningful and successful life afterwards. Finally, Meredith has been a magazine writer, NPR reporter, award-winning Bay Area journalist, family therapist and probation officer. It is with this varied professional and personal background that she delves into the psyche of these Manson women. The parts about the book I found most interesting were the author's meetings and conversations with Van Houten and Krenwinkel in prison. She also had the opportunity to interview a couple of their parents. Throughout the book, she tries to come to conclusions as to whether they are rehabilitated, how they really feel about what they did, and to figure out how they became brainwashed by Manson. Interspersed throughout the book she cites various psychological studies regarding people who murder and how they can become immune to feeling anything about it. Although I read a least half of these accounts, I admit I tired of the medical jargon and began to page through these sections. I was more interested in the one-on-one experiences the author had with the Manson women. Ultimately, the author's opinion (and that of the parole board) is that Leslie Van Houten should be paroled after her almost 50 years in prison. However, Governor Jerry Brown once again declined her parole in January 2018, although this had still been undecided at the time of this book's writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    Journalist Nikki Meredith spent more than twenty years getting to know Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten and takes a deep dive into studying how they became involved with Charles Manson. She does a very involved look at what it takes to get to the point that they were at when they committed the murders while getting to know them during repeated visits over the years. She also interviews other people in their lives, past and present. A very interesting book that looks at how they have been Journalist Nikki Meredith spent more than twenty years getting to know Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten and takes a deep dive into studying how they became involved with Charles Manson. She does a very involved look at what it takes to get to the point that they were at when they committed the murders while getting to know them during repeated visits over the years. She also interviews other people in their lives, past and present. A very interesting book that looks at how they have been since the murders, what they have claimed, how they have acted, and their attempts at parole. It tells the author's relationship with them as she battles to understand them on such a deep level, and herself. An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley and author Nikki Meredith for my honest review. Citadel Publication date March 27, 2018

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I wanted this one to work for me but sadly it did not and here is why. There is no doubt that Nikki Meredith has a strong obsession with the Manson Murders, but where this book fell flat for me is its complete failure to divulge into the psyche of Charles Manson or that of the two women. In fact, Nikki Meredith’s telling seems to be more geared towards her outlook, her personal history, her experiences with the women that made up a part of Manson’s following, her fascination and perspective of M I wanted this one to work for me but sadly it did not and here is why. There is no doubt that Nikki Meredith has a strong obsession with the Manson Murders, but where this book fell flat for me is its complete failure to divulge into the psyche of Charles Manson or that of the two women. In fact, Nikki Meredith’s telling seems to be more geared towards her outlook, her personal history, her experiences with the women that made up a part of Manson’s following, her fascination and perspective of Manson… do you follow the trend? This book contained more ‘me, me, me’ than anything else, which left me with the feeling that there were too many points where this book strayed far from its intended subject matter. While I feel Nikki Meredith did offer some insight into Manson’s history, I was also left feeling empty due to a lack of any true take away at the end of this book. This was largely due to the fact that I did not gain any additional scraps of information on Charles Manson or the Manson Murders since everything contained herein I already had prior knowledge of. The one and only portion of this book that truly drew me in were the conversations that Nikki Meredith recounted with Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel. In addition to the above, there was an endless repetitive theme to this book filled with one too many moments where I was left utterly confused why it was included at all. There was an extreme lack of focus and the writing seems to ramble on mundane topics that were completely unrelated. This just created a hot mess. I also felt cheated in my expectations. Labeling this book as an autobiography, with a very misleading title, would have made way more sense to me. Readers who are also seeking to gain insight in understanding the inner workings of Charles Manson and the women that made up his cult will not benefit from this read. This subject had so much potential, however, the platform was used more as a memoir than anything else. As I am sure that Nikki Meredith is a darling individual, her life story was not what I intended to learn when picking up this book. Unfortunately, this was not for me and I feel it truly lacked in reaching its true potential. Many thanks to Nikki Meredith and Citadel Press for an advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    3.5 stars It is evident that a lot of time and research went into creating this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed parts of it. I haven’t read Helter Skelter, and I only have minimal knowledge about the Manson Family, so I went into this book a little blind. The author does a good job of covering the facts needed for this book, and I think she succeeded at making some insights into Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel’s involvement. I don’t know if it was her goal to spark sympathy for these wom 3.5 stars It is evident that a lot of time and research went into creating this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed parts of it. I haven’t read Helter Skelter, and I only have minimal knowledge about the Manson Family, so I went into this book a little blind. The author does a good job of covering the facts needed for this book, and I think she succeeded at making some insights into Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel’s involvement. I don’t know if it was her goal to spark sympathy for these women in the reader, but she did to an extent – it is hard to believe that they continue to be incarcerated after all these years, given their success and improvements in prison. But at the same time, I can see past Meredith’s glowing reviews of these women and understand the position of those opposed to their parole. Other reviews have said that the book lacks focus and sort of meanders through the topics, and I would have to agree. Many of the chapters left me asking ‘so what?’ as the purpose was unclear, and topics bounced around so frequently due to the short chapters that it was sometimes hard to see the connections between the tidbits of information being provided. The writing was also a bit repetitious at times, with the same facts being relayed several times (for example, almost every time Meredith referred to Debra Tate, she would mention that it was Sharon Tate’s youngest sister). My biggest problem with this book, however, is the connections that Meredith tried to draw between the Manson women and her own life. I found myself skimming over these chapters, trying to get back to the information on the Manson women. The connections she tried to make just did not work, and in my opinion they distracted from what she had researched and put together. This book could have been much stronger without the random tangents where she tried to bring the focus to her and her experiences, because quite frankly I didn’t care about her high school experience or her college boyfriend. I did enjoy this book and the information it provided, but it could have been better. I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The history of Charles Manson and the pure evil and terror that followed in the Tate-LaBianca murder’s that altered the peaceful social fabric of the U.S. in August 1969. The knowledge that innocent people were slaughtered without a reason or motive; horrified the nation. Nikki Meredith revisited the Manson crime in her book: “Monsters, Morality and Murder: The Manson Women and Me”. Meredith articulated on the reasons these crimes occurred, and the impact of evil related to the Holocaust and oth The history of Charles Manson and the pure evil and terror that followed in the Tate-LaBianca murder’s that altered the peaceful social fabric of the U.S. in August 1969. The knowledge that innocent people were slaughtered without a reason or motive; horrified the nation. Nikki Meredith revisited the Manson crime in her book: “Monsters, Morality and Murder: The Manson Women and Me”. Meredith articulated on the reasons these crimes occurred, and the impact of evil related to the Holocaust and other criminal acts. Other matters researched and explored were authors relationships with convicted Manson family murderesses Patricia Krenwinkel (1947-) and Leslie Van Houten (1949-) both women are currently serving time at the Frontera California Women’s Prison. A detailed update on the lives of the Manson killers were included, and interviews with affiliated friends and families. The family of Sharon Tate has campaigned tirelessly through victim rights/awareness and extensive letter writing campaigns that the killers remain behind bars and not eligible for parole. The author included detailed prison visits and conversations with Krenwinkel and Van Houten, Susan Atkins (1948-2009) and Charles “Tex” Watson (1945-) that began in 1995, and covered a period of over two decades. Meredith’s best writing covered the Barker Ranch (with a photograph) located in the “sinister” rugged canyon terrain of the Panamint Mountains. The author attended high school with Manson recruiter Catherine “Gypsy” Share and Los Angeles deputy district attorney Stephen Kaye, and used these connections throughout her book to (seemingly) verify her connections to the Manson case. The author provided a researched exploration of 1960’s encounter groups, the cultural “Be In” at Golden Gate Park, Timothy Leary, and exhaustive criminology reports of various cases including the case of Tashfeen Malik, who, with her husband slaughtered 14 of his co-workers in San Bernardino, Ca. (2015). The Manson family criminal actions were frequently compared to the horror of the Holocaust, as the author signified her connection to the Manson family through her own Jewish heritage. Manson revealed his hatred for the Jews when he carved a swastika on his forehead while in prison. In 1956, the author traveled throughout Europe on a family vacation, her long stories about her routine ordinary life would have been better told in shorter sentences, paragraphs or segments—instead, stories from her personal life and interests were too lengthy as the author continually refocused the storyline on herself and any possible connection linking herself to the Manson case and followers. Excellent photos included. 3* GOOD. **With thanks and appreciation to the CITADEL PRESS BOOKS via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    A more apt title for this book would be Me, and oh by the way I mention the Manson Women Murderers ... This book meanders all over the place and I'm not sure what comparisons, if any, the author attempted to draw from sharing her life experience/background with the two women - Krenwinkel and Van Houten other than to publish a book that advocates parole for Leslie Van Houten. If the comparison was that Mason was equivalent to Hitler in convincing people to carry out his orders, then again ... so A more apt title for this book would be Me, and oh by the way I mention the Manson Women Murderers ... This book meanders all over the place and I'm not sure what comparisons, if any, the author attempted to draw from sharing her life experience/background with the two women - Krenwinkel and Van Houten other than to publish a book that advocates parole for Leslie Van Houten. If the comparison was that Mason was equivalent to Hitler in convincing people to carry out his orders, then again ... so what? There is always evil, there will always be evil. At the end of the day, if you want to understand why these women did what they did, don't look to find the answer in this book. In fact when it comes to reading this book, don't waste your time ...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Keith Chawgo

    Nikki Meredith’s personal experiences and relationships with Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten is a fascinating and in depth dealing with understanding and empathy. The book is not a sensationalised account of two murderers and a journalist hoping to find an angle that will push this further. What we have is a book that is thought provoking and raises questions on the human spirit and asks can a person change from their early self. Meredith has a very interesting writing style that delves Nikki Meredith’s personal experiences and relationships with Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten is a fascinating and in depth dealing with understanding and empathy. The book is not a sensationalised account of two murderers and a journalist hoping to find an angle that will push this further. What we have is a book that is thought provoking and raises questions on the human spirit and asks can a person change from their early self. Meredith has a very interesting writing style that delves the reader into the subject matter without speaking down or pushing her ideals forth. Her strengths comes with providing the facts and letting the reader come up with their own understanding and she gives you enough time to digest the information before moving on. Interestingly enough, the author was in high school who would become a Manson member years later. She looks into their relationship at this point and examines how they both changed as people. Starting out with very similar views but leading very different paths. This is what makes the book rich reading from my point of view, Meredith examines the situations with Krenwinkle and Van Houten and relates this to her own life and her own decisions and experiences. Leading in through this perspective, lifts the subject matter above the usual fare that is out there dealing with the Manson family or any true crime books out there. Meredith has provided an interesting subject and personalised it to become real. As for people’s understanding or changing of perspective on how you feel about Krenwinkle or Van Houten will depend on your own personal views but this book will challenge even though who have very strict views on this. This is an outstanding look into the lives of two women who made some bad decisions which lead them down a dark path whilst in their late teens to early 20’s and the prices they have paid. It deals with changes of personality, thoughts and overview people have as they go into their 60’s to 70’s. It is a fact that as we mature, we are seldom the same person we were in our younger days than what we are now. This is a must read and highly recommended. Fascinating, personable and thought provoking in an intelligent and personal way.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    There's not a lot of new information on the Manson family (or Manson Women) contained in this book and for some reason the author has rambled on, jumping from decade to decade without much rhyme or reason. It's the 90s, then it's 2001 and then it's 1940 something and I am left wondering why I need to know that the author was having dreams about Hitler unless that somehow fits in with the ties they want to show that the Tate/ Labianca murders had something to do with being Jewish. I'm also not en There's not a lot of new information on the Manson family (or Manson Women) contained in this book and for some reason the author has rambled on, jumping from decade to decade without much rhyme or reason. It's the 90s, then it's 2001 and then it's 1940 something and I am left wondering why I need to know that the author was having dreams about Hitler unless that somehow fits in with the ties they want to show that the Tate/ Labianca murders had something to do with being Jewish. I'm also not entirely clear on what the authors brother having been in jail has to do with anything. Maybe I dozed off. Sorry, there's nothing to see here. I received an advance copy for review

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    Meandering, specious and lacking perception. I was hoping to find an insightful exploration of why America's daughters became monsters. This book is not this. The writer tries to involve her own personal narrative into the story of these women, but it come across as facile and shallow. There were times I rolled my eyes. After awhile, I started to skim hoping to find something. Yes, there were bits and pieces, but overall the book is pointless, disorganized and adds little to a crime that subvert Meandering, specious and lacking perception. I was hoping to find an insightful exploration of why America's daughters became monsters. This book is not this. The writer tries to involve her own personal narrative into the story of these women, but it come across as facile and shallow. There were times I rolled my eyes. After awhile, I started to skim hoping to find something. Yes, there were bits and pieces, but overall the book is pointless, disorganized and adds little to a crime that subverted the California mythos of the 1960's.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Meow

    It can be said that the Manson Family murders killed the 60’s. I have never forgotten “Tex” Watson’s (the lone male who participated in the murders) words when asked by the victims at Cielo Drive “Who are you?” to which Watson replied “I am the Devil and I’m here to do the Devil’s business”. I’d always been puzzled and a bit fascinated by The Manson Girls. What struck me most about these young girls Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins was their air of detachment, girlish cou It can be said that the Manson Family murders killed the 60’s. I have never forgotten “Tex” Watson’s (the lone male who participated in the murders) words when asked by the victims at Cielo Drive “Who are you?” to which Watson replied “I am the Devil and I’m here to do the Devil’s business”. I’d always been puzzled and a bit fascinated by The Manson Girls. What struck me most about these young girls Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins was their air of detachment, girlish courtroom antics and their look of dangerous innocence. I wondered how, during the “peace & love” era of the 60’s, these girls were responsible for such a merciless massacre. The “Manson Women and Me” is Nikki Meredith’s inquiry into members of the Manson Family. Meredith wrote letters of interest to the girls, all housed at the California Institute for Women in Frontera, California, serving life sentences after the death penalty they received was abolished for being “unconstitutional”. This sparked the 20 year relationship between Meredith, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. While Susan Atkins had initially been contacted, the author chose not to pursue Atkins as Atkins had not only married while in prison but also found “religion”. Meredith’s had unlimited access to both Krenwinkel and Van Houten. Her research is extensive going as far as a trek to Death Valley where Manson and his Family were ultimately arrested. Meredith spent significant hours with Leslie Van Houten’s mother. Her interviews with Van Houten’s mother are almost heartbreaking. There are numerous interviews with others - former Manson followers and courtroom players. There is really not much new in this book that we don’t already know and I don’t think I will ever understand how these girls could have been such empty shells - so lacking in humanity - that they were able to take the lives of seven people with such brutality and such detachment. Thank you NetGalley and Kensington/Citadel for the advance digital copy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Milky Mixer

    This book could have been so much better and was a complete missed opportunity by the author. Many members of the Manson Family, the prosecution, and relatives of the victims have written memoirs, given interviews, appeared on television, and have told the story of the Tate-LaBianca Murders from every side. But Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie van Houten, 2 of the 3 women who participated in the infamous 1960s murders, have been relatively reclusive over the nearly-50 years they've spent in prison This book could have been so much better and was a complete missed opportunity by the author. Many members of the Manson Family, the prosecution, and relatives of the victims have written memoirs, given interviews, appeared on television, and have told the story of the Tate-LaBianca Murders from every side. But Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie van Houten, 2 of the 3 women who participated in the infamous 1960s murders, have been relatively reclusive over the nearly-50 years they've spent in prison. The public knows them as killers, but who else are they? Who were they before? Who were they after? Much of their stories have not been told in their own words. There's an amazing set of interviews they did with Diane Sawyer in the 1990s. You can find the Sawyer interviews and a handful of others on YouTube. This book, however, is touted as the result of a 20 year relationship the author, Nikki Meredith, developed with both women, visiting them multiple times in prison, speaking to them for hours and hours, getting to know them, trying to unlock how they could do what they did and how they've attempted to come to terms with and atone for their crimes. PLUS, she had the journalistic good fortune of having gone to high school with both prosecutor Stephen Kay and Catherine "Gypsy" Share, who recruited Leslie van Houten and Linda Kasabian into the Family. She tracks both of them down to talk, too. And yet there's little here that you can't find elsewhere. Is Diane Sawyer just that good? What did Nikki Meredith talk to these women about for 20 years? Surely Leslie had more to say than Catherine Share was pushy? Perhaps she refrained from including more, out of courtesy for the friendships she established, and yet... and yet... I will say the passages with Leslie van Houten's mother and Patricia Krenwinkle's father are some of the most poignant in the book and give some insight into what they must have gone through over the years. Plus, it's frustratingly disorganized, both chronologically and in the way it spends equal if not more time on the author's own stories - her convict brother, her abusive college boyfriend, her wishy-washy feelings about being Jewish growing up in California. All of which might make an interesting memoir about HER but feels like a creative clash with whatever she set out to do with or for the Manson Women 20 years ago.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Yuthika

    I did not expect to visualise Abigail Folger's smile or hear Leno LaBianca's screams when I started reading this. I did not expect to empathise to this extent with the author and the discrimination she had to face. And I, least of all, expected to understand Leslie and Pat. More Leslie than Pat, actually. And Susan Atkins who is present just by name in this book? Well, I have always been convinced she had Munchausen syndrome. I, who have always vehemently vilified the Manson women (oh how I disl I did not expect to visualise Abigail Folger's smile or hear Leno LaBianca's screams when I started reading this. I did not expect to empathise to this extent with the author and the discrimination she had to face. And I, least of all, expected to understand Leslie and Pat. More Leslie than Pat, actually. And Susan Atkins who is present just by name in this book? Well, I have always been convinced she had Munchausen syndrome. I, who have always vehemently vilified the Manson women (oh how I dislike this term), have found perspective. One heinous act marks one forever; but does that make one evil? I still do not know what to think, but suffice it to say that I have newfound respect for Leslie van Houten.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Not long after I began reading this book, I decided to look at some of the reviews here and was surprised by all the complaining about it lacking focus or being too much about the author. But I suspect at least some of those complaints are more about the book not being what they expected. It's not really *about* the Manson women at all but about the author's relationship to them (and friendship with two of them). Meredith grew up in circumstances similar to Van Houten, Krenwinkle, and Atikins. H Not long after I began reading this book, I decided to look at some of the reviews here and was surprised by all the complaining about it lacking focus or being too much about the author. But I suspect at least some of those complaints are more about the book not being what they expected. It's not really *about* the Manson women at all but about the author's relationship to them (and friendship with two of them). Meredith grew up in circumstances similar to Van Houten, Krenwinkle, and Atikins. How did *they* get caught up in the Manson Family at all, yet she did not? How do human beings become capable of doing evil things? While there are a few places where the narrative does get bogged down a little, overall, I found this a very readable, engaging, and thought-provoking book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    marissa sammy

    Honestly, the title has it backwards. Meredith spends more time on her own family dynamics and making the most tenuous of connections between herself and the Manson Family victims. She seems to be implying that since she's Jewish, she understands how the victims felt, or could easily have been in their place, or something? At any rate, it reads like a self-involved family memoir locked in a cell with a sympathetic criminology book, and they are uneasy bunkmates indeed. Honestly, the title has it backwards. Meredith spends more time on her own family dynamics and making the most tenuous of connections between herself and the Manson Family victims. She seems to be implying that since she's Jewish, she understands how the victims felt, or could easily have been in their place, or something? At any rate, it reads like a self-involved family memoir locked in a cell with a sympathetic criminology book, and they are uneasy bunkmates indeed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jill Crosby

    An epically proportional train wreck, PURPORTED to be about the author’s in-depth study of Leslie van Houten & Patricia Krenwinkle, two of Charles Manson’s primary “killing lieutenants,” who actively participated in the slaughter of at least 7 human beings back in 1969. Instead, this is what the reader was served: lengthy chunks of the author’s memoir interwoven with “interviews” of the Manson Girls, then awkwardly forced to reveal a connection to the situations of her subjects; The author becomin An epically proportional train wreck, PURPORTED to be about the author’s in-depth study of Leslie van Houten & Patricia Krenwinkle, two of Charles Manson’s primary “killing lieutenants,” who actively participated in the slaughter of at least 7 human beings back in 1969. Instead, this is what the reader was served: lengthy chunks of the author’s memoir interwoven with “interviews” of the Manson Girls, then awkwardly forced to reveal a connection to the situations of her subjects; The author becoming good friends with her subjects (because that’s both a healthy and objective way to provide an analysis of what sent these women into killing-frenzy-overdrive); Bemoaning the fact that these people sentenced first to death, then to life in prison are never granted parole; A detachment from the victims’ terror & the survivors’ pain; Much pretentiousness over the fact that the people who “really know these women” are articulate and have true compassion brought about by lots and lots of higher education (the description of Patricia Krewinkle getting to have “family weekends” with her parents where they sit around reading Dostoyevsky & Faulkner and cooking family meals would’ve been ridiculously bourgeois had it not been for the image of Leo LaBianca lying dead with a cooking fork plunged into his stomach, his blood smeared into the words “pig” and “healter skelter” on his refrigerator and on the walls of his own kitchen by the same woman whipping up homemade pizza with her mother on the grounds of Frontera Prison); A lot about being Jewish (but only a quarter); and Outrage at persistent anti-semitism. So what are we supposed to do with this? I couldn’t figure out what the author wanted me to do with this mishmash of information and opinion. I did manage to muster up some anger at having dropped $12.99 on the Kindle version of this ersatz true crime/memoir/op ed piece

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sam (Clues and Reviews)

    I have always been fascinated by cults. I find them to be equal parts fascinating and terrifying. So, naturally, in high school I picked up a copy of Helter Skelter, learning all about the Manson Family. This book stayed with me and I actually ended up having to throw the book away because it gave me the creeps. How could people be manipulated into murder? How could one man dictate actions? What could compel a “normal” person to do such awful things? The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality a I have always been fascinated by cults. I find them to be equal parts fascinating and terrifying. So, naturally, in high school I picked up a copy of Helter Skelter, learning all about the Manson Family. This book stayed with me and I actually ended up having to throw the book away because it gave me the creeps. How could people be manipulated into murder? How could one man dictate actions? What could compel a “normal” person to do such awful things? The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality and Murder, a true crime/memoir by Nikki Meredith, attempts to answer these types of questions by honing in on the Manson women and their mindsets/actions during the time of the Manson Family murder spree. Beginning with Meredith in the late 60s travelling to the California state prison, as a journalist, which was home to Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, Meredith poses these types of questions and searches for answers over the course of 40 years. From the first pages, I was completely sucked in. Meredith has a strong narrative voice and I thought it was brilliant to present this book as a true crime/memoir. By bringing in her personal feelings, reflections of her own childhood (growing up part Jewish and encountering some anti-Semitic people) and her own relationship that she developed with the Manson women, I found myself drawn into the STORY and not just the facts. I really appreciated this. All of her own reflections are also backed by a ton of research and other professional works that she willingly and openly cites; it is obvious that she is a well-versed woman. I really loved the mix of criminal psychology with historical significance. I think one of the things I appreciated most about this book was how it made me think. Meredith touches on Nazi Germany and how regular Germans (not Nazi shoulders) were convinced to kill Jews, the Stanford Prison experiment, cult mentalities which all come to the same conclusion that people, who do not suffer from mental illness, can be convinced that murder/human brutality is okay in certain situations and that in these situations, after deprogramming, people can be integrated back into society without threat. This concept was so interesting to me. I went back and forth throughout my reading from being angered to feeling sympathy towards the women. Overall, I think Meredith delivers a really well done and controversial true crime memoir/novel that will sit with me for a long time. I highly recommend.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    It would be impossible to write a book about the women in the Manson family and have it not be interesting. Even all these decades later, the story of this cult is still shocking and mystifying to many people. How did a group of seemingly 'normal' girls turn into murderers? Were they completely coerced into committing the crimes? Should they continue to be held responsible for what happened while they were under the influence of mind control? Their story continues in the present, as they're cont It would be impossible to write a book about the women in the Manson family and have it not be interesting. Even all these decades later, the story of this cult is still shocking and mystifying to many people. How did a group of seemingly 'normal' girls turn into murderers? Were they completely coerced into committing the crimes? Should they continue to be held responsible for what happened while they were under the influence of mind control? Their story continues in the present, as they're continually up for (and denied) parole, leaving many of these questions still largely unanswered. Meredith became friends with several of the women during their time behind bars while interviewing them for this book. It was interesting to see her take their actual character after spending time with them (since most who condemn them haven't actually interacted with them in person). However, this book spends far too much time with Meredith trying to insert herself into the narrative (I was confused between her parallel of the women being disenfranchised with society and the author's quarter-Jewish background.) I would definitely define this book as more of a memoir from Meredith rather than a non-fiction account of the Manson followers. Although I enjoyed much of the facts of this bizarre tale, I feel like the story would have been better served in with more linear storytelling. The chapters jumped around way too much, so I often felt disconnected from the women's stories. I'm interested in reading more about the Manson family after this, but probably won't be recommending this to others because of the disjointedness of the writing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Koren

    Even though there were many players involved Charles Manson, the author focuses on just two, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel. The author attempts to get inside their heads to figure out how two normal young girls could commit horrible murders. This could possibly work if the author had a background in psychology, but she is a journalist. She interviews the two subjects, but they are not very forthcoming and so the psychological aspect doesnt really work. She gives a lot of background i Even though there were many players involved Charles Manson, the author focuses on just two, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel. The author attempts to get inside their heads to figure out how two normal young girls could commit horrible murders. This could possibly work if the author had a background in psychology, but she is a journalist. She interviews the two subjects, but they are not very forthcoming and so the psychological aspect doesnt really work. She gives a lot of background into the murders, but if you have read anything at all about the murders you aren't going to learn anything new here. This book is more a memoir about the author. I was left scratching my head as to how she tried to compare the murders to her Jewishness, the holocaust and her brother's incarceration. If you want to know more about the Manson murderers there are better books out there.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I almost didn’t finish this book because I got so bored with it multiple times. The author spends about 50% of the book telling stories from her own life that have absolutely no relation to the two women of the Manson family that are supposed to be the focus of the book. While some of her stories are interesting, they interrupt the narrative of her time with the women and to be honest I just don’t care about it - I read the book to learn about them, not the author. The portions about the Manson I almost didn’t finish this book because I got so bored with it multiple times. The author spends about 50% of the book telling stories from her own life that have absolutely no relation to the two women of the Manson family that are supposed to be the focus of the book. While some of her stories are interesting, they interrupt the narrative of her time with the women and to be honest I just don’t care about it - I read the book to learn about them, not the author. The portions about the Manson women and family are interesting and insightful enough to keep you reading through the boring memoir portions, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone looking for a good true crime read or to someone who is interested in the Manson family saga 😔

  22. 4 out of 5

    Susan Weiner

    This book was less than satisfying. While purporting to answer the question of why normal people can sometimes do such horrendous things, the author talks primarily about herself and her psyche. And then she becomes involved in the lives of Manson's women even advocating for parole of one of the defendants. I wasn't sure I was in on her sympathy for the women or for her unusual method of running all explanations for their behavior through her own eyes and experience. If you want to know how the This book was less than satisfying. While purporting to answer the question of why normal people can sometimes do such horrendous things, the author talks primarily about herself and her psyche. And then she becomes involved in the lives of Manson's women even advocating for parole of one of the defendants. I wasn't sure I was in on her sympathy for the women or for her unusual method of running all explanations for their behavior through her own eyes and experience. If you want to know how the author handled prejudice, adolescent teenage and college years, and an abusive boyfriend you'll find that here. If you want to know what drove the Manson women to become beasts for a time, you'll have to look elsewhere. Maybe no one can answer that question. Meredith certainly didn't.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kim Hamilton

    As a true crime buff, historian and one-time psych major, I’ve always been intrigued yet perplexed as to how so many young, seemingly well-adjusted women could fall under the spell of a notorious madman like Charles Manson. When I read that author Nikki Meredith had interviewed Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkle for 20+ years, I couldn’t wait to read it. While I would have preferred more info about the Manson women and less about side stories of the author’s own life, this book provided g As a true crime buff, historian and one-time psych major, I’ve always been intrigued yet perplexed as to how so many young, seemingly well-adjusted women could fall under the spell of a notorious madman like Charles Manson. When I read that author Nikki Meredith had interviewed Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkle for 20+ years, I couldn’t wait to read it. While I would have preferred more info about the Manson women and less about side stories of the author’s own life, this book provided great insight on their backgrounds, their families, their acceptance of responsibility, their ‘deprogramming’ from Manson, their rehabilitation, their prison life, their appeals, and more.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Carter

    I really liked this book. I, as a person who likes going deeper into why people do some of the things they do. And if you are that kind of person then I think you will like this book. Also, as a teen I had read two books on the Manson Family that were published in the 70s. I as a young woman, horrified, yet captivated by such violence, wondering about those young women who committed such violent acts. Hoping I could never become like them. Yet, they were ordinary young woman turned into killers. I really liked this book. I, as a person who likes going deeper into why people do some of the things they do. And if you are that kind of person then I think you will like this book. Also, as a teen I had read two books on the Manson Family that were published in the 70s. I as a young woman, horrified, yet captivated by such violence, wondering about those young women who committed such violent acts. Hoping I could never become like them. Yet, they were ordinary young woman turned into killers. What can be more frightening than that?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    If you’re intending to learn about the Manson women, you’re reading the wrong book. The title is definitely a misnomer. If you’re interested in learning about the author’s life - family, high school experiences, college boyfriend, ex-offender brother and on and on in this vein, then it’s the book for you! If you’re interested in the Manson Family story avoid this one. With all the well written books about Manson and his followers out there, this one is a waste of time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kayo

    A lot of research went in this book, that you can tell. Not sure about the authors personal life, how it connected. Felt a bit disconnected for me in that easy. Overall book was interesting. Thank you to author, publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Nice addition to the library of material on the subject.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jo Besser

    I honestly didn't think I would like this as much as I did. Though, I won't lie, I often times wondered what Nikki Meredith was writing about herself in this. After a while it made a lot of sense. You read about Nikki Meredith was finding herself, as well as the Manson women. I have my opinions on the women who were part of the "Manson Family" I honestly cannot say if my mind has been changed on them. However, this book gave me a better understanding of them. Why they did what they did, and what t I honestly didn't think I would like this as much as I did. Though, I won't lie, I often times wondered what Nikki Meredith was writing about herself in this. After a while it made a lot of sense. You read about Nikki Meredith was finding herself, as well as the Manson women. I have my opinions on the women who were part of the "Manson Family" I honestly cannot say if my mind has been changed on them. However, this book gave me a better understanding of them. Why they did what they did, and what the Manson women did to atone for their crimes. For anyone who thought Helter Skelter was an interesting read, I really think they should pick up this book. It gives you more of an understanding of the people these women became, and not the women they once were.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shouty

    MORE MEMOIR/LESS TRUE CRIME THAN I EXPECTED BUT WHEN YOU CAN WORK IN A CHAPTER ABOUT ANNE FRANK I’LL ALWAYS BE DOWN

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zorka

    I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I don't know where to start. I enjoy learning about true crimes and I love criminal psychology. I remember I was 14 years old when I first read about Mason and the things his crew committed. It was shocking and some twisted way... fascinating. How can a human creature commit such a hideous crime? This book tries to focus on Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel but the autho I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I don't know where to start. I enjoy learning about true crimes and I love criminal psychology. I remember I was 14 years old when I first read about Mason and the things his crew committed. It was shocking and some twisted way... fascinating. How can a human creature commit such a hideous crime? This book tries to focus on Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel but the author mentions a lot of details about other things that are completely irrelevant. The whole book was very confusing, I had to read some things I was totally not interested in and that's not okay. I didn't expect these details when I started the book, so I was disappointed. The conversations with Van Houten and Krenwinkel was interesting but the other stuff... not so much. If I want to read about history, I pick up a history book. Furthermore, the author was jumping from decade to decade, and sometimes I didn't understand why. Sorry to say this, but I didn't like this book. It could have been better, but didn't reach its full potential.

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