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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, 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 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.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published March 27, 2018

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Nikki Meredith

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5 stars
191 (13%)
4 stars
371 (26%)
3 stars
477 (34%)
2 stars
268 (19%)
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82 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 216 reviews
Profile Image for Meike.
1,518 reviews2,464 followers
February 19, 2018
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!
Profile Image for Bernadette.
112 reviews55 followers
April 10, 2018
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.
Profile Image for *TUDOR^QUEEN* .
436 reviews444 followers
March 11, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Valerity (Val).
956 reviews2,741 followers
March 26, 2018
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.

Publication date March 27, 2018
Profile Image for Alex.andthebooks.
294 reviews1,808 followers
April 27, 2021
W moim odczuciu książka bardziej potrzebna samej autorce niż jakiemukolwiek, zainteresowanemu tematem czytelnikowi.
Kończę lekturę zawiedziona, nie zaspokoiwszy mojej ciekawości odnośnie tematu, odnośnie kobiet.
Wątki biograficzne szczególnie nietrafione, bo zamiast zachęcać do zrozumienia czy pochylenia się nad sprawą kobiet Mansona, zwyczajnie mnie irytowały.
Profile Image for Julie.
70 reviews47 followers
October 7, 2020
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.

Profile Image for SheAintGotNoShoes.
1,610 reviews2 followers
June 20, 2022
It never ceases to amaze me how some will move heaven and earth, spending endless time, money and effort to support and try to release heartless killers rather than help their victims or just victims in general. It doesn't matter all that much to me if Van Houten and Krenwinkle are supposedly not the same people they once were, the fact is they brutally tortured and killed 7 innocent people that they didn't even know. It is similar to hearing every now and again that a 98 year old Nazi guard has been tracked down. He is still brought to trial, as time does not erase the horrors committed when he was in his prime in the 40s.
Profile Image for Brooke.
684 reviews89 followers
February 25, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Michelle.
590 reviews158 followers
March 18, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Trish.
738 reviews11 followers
April 30, 2018
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 ...
Profile Image for Milky Mixer.
408 reviews9 followers
April 14, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Keith Chawgo.
479 reviews15 followers
April 3, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Trzcionka.
691 reviews71 followers
November 24, 2019
Autorka bez wątpienia ma dobre pióro. Nawet pisząc o mało istotnych kwestiach robi to w taki sposób, że ma się ochotę czytać dalej. Pod względem technicznym na plus zasługuje też to, że książka składa się z krótkich rozdziałów. Autorka często przeskakuje z tematu w temat, wiec można mieć wrażenie chaosu, ale ogólnie rzecz biorąc lepiej wpływa to na odbiór niż męczenie czytelnika jedną kwestią przez bite 30 stron. To co mi się nie podobało to kilkukrotne powtórzenia tych samych wydarzeń -miałam wrażenie, że autorka zapomniała, że już o tym pisała..
Przechodząc do warstwy merytorycznej to jestem trochę rozczarowana. Informacje przedstawione przez autorkę jak i jej osobiste interpretacje i wnioski niczym mnie nie zaskoczyły. Osoby znające historię Mansona i zbrodnie jakich dopuścili się jego "wyznawcy" nie dowiedzą się chyba niczego nowego. Nie zdradzając szczegółów, zaryzykuje stwierdzenie, że przeciętny obserwator doszedł by do tożsamych wniosków co autorka książki BEZ jakiejkolwiek analizy sytuacji życiowej czy psychiki kobiet Mansona... Autorka wielokrotnie podkreśla, że wykonała tytaniczną, wieloletnią pracę przy szykowaniu tej książki. Niewątpie, tylko jakoś tego nie czuć..
Obawiam się, że powstanie tej pozycji wiązało się z osobistym stosunkiem autorki do tematu aniżeli chęcią przekazania konkretnych wniosków i przeprowadzenia sumiennej analizy. Potwierdzeniem tego mogą być niezliczone nawiązania do życia osobistego autorki. Nie odpływała w tym zakresie całkowicie od tematu, w jakimś sensie niewątpliwie te porównania miały sens, ale było tego za dużo.
Podsumowując - nieźle napisany, choć zbyt emocjonalny reportaż, któremu brakuje kręgosłupa i konkretnych wniosków.
Profile Image for Irene Well Worth A Read.
850 reviews72 followers
March 8, 2018
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
Profile Image for Kay.
93 reviews4 followers
May 21, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Meow.
91 reviews6 followers
February 26, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Lisa.
11 reviews3 followers
June 3, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Anna.
3,519 reviews162 followers
December 2, 2019
Książka średnia. Lekko zakręcona, że trzeba się skupić na tym, czy autorka pisze o swojej rodzinie, czy o dziewczynach, które uległy Mansonowi. Przez całą książkę przewija się zastanawianie się nad czymś, co autorka nazywa żydowskością w związku z Catherine "Gypsy" Share - czemu kobieta, której rodzice byli członkami francuskiego ruchu oporu, a inni krewni zginęli w gettach lub obozach koncentracyjnych, uległa mężczyźnie o poglądach rasistowskich, który w pewnym momencie wyciął sobie swastykę na czole.
Profile Image for Yuthika.
517 reviews42 followers
May 6, 2018
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.
Profile Image for marissa  sammy.
117 reviews11 followers
August 2, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Dominika.
271 reviews34 followers
November 9, 2021
Meredith unfortunately tries to make this book about herself, so the main point of the book is almost non-existent. Sadly, coming with the notion that she worked on the relationship with both Manson-Family women for 20-ish years to create this book (supposedly).
Profile Image for Jill Crosby.
697 reviews50 followers
May 31, 2018
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
Profile Image for Allison.
80 reviews2 followers
July 31, 2021
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 😔
Profile Image for NaTaya Hastings .
456 reviews18 followers
January 18, 2021
*Contains some spoilers*

I cannot express how much I disliked this book. Like..... I hated it. Truly. I had pledged to be kinder in these reviews after I found out that sometimes, the authors actually READ them (and then use them on their blogs!!! Made me feel awful the last time this happened with an unfavorable review that I had written.) and I'm not one to hurt people's feelings.

However, there's no other way to put it. I hated this book. What could have been a really nice, informative study on some of the less .... I hate to say "prestigious," but it fits ....prestigious members of the Manson family turned into a rambling, all-about-me autobiography of the author. Seriously, maybe 15% of this book actually focused on "The Manson Women." The other 85% was all about the "and Me."

And most of the stuff she talked about concerning herself wasn't even relevant! She dedicated pages and pages to a failed relationship she had with an abusive guy, but the vast majority of it wasn't about the abuse. It was about how his parents hated Jews. This author wasn't focused AT ALL. She was ALL OVER THE PLACE, and it was awful.

Additionally, I don't care what she says, the way she behaved when Patricia Krenwinkel asked her to write a letter on her behalf to the parole board was abhorrent. I don't know if this woman is lying to herself or if she just thinks she can fool all her readers, but it was incredibly obvious that she refused to write a letter for someone she CLAIMS was a friend because she was afraid it would hurt her book sales. Some friend. Glad she's not one of mine. Then, when she realized that she'd hurt the woman she called friend - one of the two women who told her their stories and was ultimately responsible for her getting any book sales at all, by the way - she asked to meet with her.

Pat didn't respond, which I absolutely understand. Her refusal to write the letter was a slap in the face. It basically said to Pat, "I used you to get my story to sell my book, and I can't risk jeopardizing my future wealth to do something that COULD POTENTIALLY GIVE YOU YOUR LIFE BACK! We were never friends, but hey, big thanks for hopefully making me rich!"

So of course Pat didn't respond. I wouldn't have responded either. That friendship would have been dead to me. Then this woman - the author - has the audacity to say that if Pat had only met with her, she likely would have changed her mind and written the letter, but the fact that she didn't communicate with her after that just proved to her that she really didn't know her at all, so she couldn't be sure she DESERVED parole because maybe she wasn't rehabilitated at all (even though she'd spent the entire first 3/4ths of the book - well, the parts where she wasn't talking about herself - claiming that she WAS rehabilitated!!!) But now, all that was thrown out the window because Pat didn't respond to her pleas for a second chance.

The woman even goes on to say, "Outside of prison walls, if someone were to quit talking to a friend over a slight like this, that would be okay. But people in prison have to act differently. They have to be better if they want people to give them a chance." That's sick. Also, the whole thing was crap. She was pissy that Krenwinkel cut her off completely, and her revenge was to proclaim to the whole world - or at least the limited number of people who read her book - that maybe Pat was still a danger to society.

Honestly, up until that point, I was willing to give the book two stars... maybe even three, with the clarification in the review that it's really a 2.5. It wasn't, after all, the worst book I've ever read (even though it certainly wasn't "good" by any stretch of the imagination). But after reading the way she behaved, I was done. The woman is horrible, and it colored the whole book for me. It was made even worse by the fact that she DID write a parole recommendation for the other woman (Leslie Van Houten) about whom the book was supposed to be written. A double smack in the face to Pat.

Finally, she ended the book after one of Leslie's more recent parole hearings. She told us that Leslie had been recommended for parole but that the governor had 30 days to overturn it. And she literally ended with, "At the time of this writing, the governor hasn't made his decision." (That may not be a direct quote, but it's close enough.) You're telling me you couldn't have waited a few more days to find out how the story was actually going to end? I mean, of course, anyone can look up what happened to Van Houten online, but still. I think she probably could have waited to get the decision and actually given her book a real ending. (And yes, I know.... deadlines, publication dates, etc. Still. It pisses me off. It probably wouldn't have bothered me so much if she hadn't been such a freaking horrible person and wasted a good 75% of her book talking about herself. If you want to write an autobiography, write an autobiography. Don't try to claim it's about the Manson women to draw in readers and fill it with crap about you that no one wants to hear because really? Who are you? Why would anyone want to know your story?)

Okay. Now I've devolved into being ugly, so I'm going to stop.

But I detested this book. Absolutely hated it. Please ignore any grammatical errors, typos, or misspellings. I HAD to get this review out because the book made me so angry. I didn't slow down to check what I was writing as I was writing it, and I'm not going back to edit for mistakes. I'd just get mad all over again reading about how bad the book was.

Okay. Done for real now.
Profile Image for Parę słów o książkach.
436 reviews57 followers
April 23, 2021
Ciekawa historia, choć liczyłam na więcej historii samych kobiet z Rodziny Mansona, a nieco mniej porównań autorki i jej historii. Mimo wszystko bardzo dobry reportaż.
Profile Image for Sam (Clues and Reviews).
684 reviews160 followers
April 3, 2018
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.

Profile Image for Erin.
599 reviews8 followers
July 8, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Taksya.
1,036 reviews10 followers
August 31, 2019
Già dal titolo si capisce che l'autrice non parlerà solo delle donne della Family finite in galera dopo gli omicidi Tate-LaBianca, ma anche di se stessa.
Nel corso del racconto ci vengono ricordati i fatti legati a Charles Manson e alla sua Famiglia, dei modi di reclutamento, della tecnica di fidelizzazione e delle manie di grandezza di Manson.
In contemporanea l'autrice ci parla degli anni passati ad intervistare e, nel tempo, diventare quasi amica di Leslie Van Houten, mantenendo rapporti non sempre buoni con Patricia Krenwinkel, mentre non sembra aver avuto mai un buon rapporto con Susan Atkins.
Il terzo aspetto del racconto è una sorta di biografia dell'autrice stessa, cresciuta negli stessi anni delle altre tre, negli stessi ambienti di due di loro, ma con scelte e un futuro decisamente diversi.

Nel complesso le varie parti si armonizzano bene, creando un'immagine più completa del periodo degli omicidi e delle figure coinvolte, rendendo la creazione del libro stesso una parte della storia narrata.
Il parere finale della Meredith potrá sembrare di parte, ma la descrizione del processo che l'ha portata ad alcune decisioni è ben spiegata nel libro. Si può essere d'accordo o meno, ma l'affresco finale è più che apprezzabile.
Profile Image for Koren .
871 reviews35 followers
May 11, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Kim Hamilton.
485 reviews4 followers
October 19, 2019
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.
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