The Manson Women and Me
In the summer of 1969, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel carried out horrific acts of butchery on the orders of the charismatic cult leader Charles Manson. 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.

The Manson Women and Me Details

TitleThe Manson Women and Me
Author
ReleaseMar 27th, 2018
PublisherCitadel Press
ISBN-139780806538587
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Crime, True Crime, History, Autobiography, Memoir, Mystery, Biography Memoir, Religion, Cults

The Manson Women and Me Review

  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    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!
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  • Brooke
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsIt 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 starsIt 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.
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  • Meow
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Kayo
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Kathy Cunningham
    January 1, 1970
    Nikki Meredith’s THE MANSON WOMEN AND ME is ostensibly an examination of Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, two of the women who committed multiple murders for Charles Manson back in 1969. Meredith, an award-winning journalist and licensed social worker, spent twenty years getting to know Leslie and Pat – she visited both of them regularly in prison, corresponded with them, and interviewed their family members, former Manson cohorts, and one of the lawyers who prosecuted them. The drivin Nikki Meredith’s THE MANSON WOMEN AND ME is ostensibly an examination of Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, two of the women who committed multiple murders for Charles Manson back in 1969. Meredith, an award-winning journalist and licensed social worker, spent twenty years getting to know Leslie and Pat – she visited both of them regularly in prison, corresponded with them, and interviewed their family members, former Manson cohorts, and one of the lawyers who prosecuted them. The driving force behind the book is Meredith’s need to understand why these women, who had fairly normal childhoods, were willing to commit horrendous murders for Charles Manson. And she offers up a few theories, even if none of them are particularly convincing. But ultimately, this isn’t a book about Leslie and Pat so much as it is Meredith’s memoir about growing up part-Jewish at a time of rampant anti-Semitism. This is much more about the “me” in the title than it is about the “Manson women.”It’s not that Meredith’s life isn’t interesting. She writes about growing up in Hollywood, attending Hollywood High, joining one of their “social clubs” (sort of a high school version of a sorority), and dating a guy whose parents rejected her because of her Jewish heritage. She writes about her relationship with her father, her first experience reading THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, and her shocking realization that many people thought of “Jewishness” as akin to criminality (when her boyfriend’s mother exclaims, “She’s a Jew!,” she might as well have said, “She’s a murderer!”). That said, the connection between Meredith’s life and the Manson murders is tenuous. She wonders if the same thing that drove average Germans to incinerate millions of Jews also drove Leslie and Pat to viciously murder people they didn’t even know. What causes people to ignore their own morality or sense of compassion? Both Leslie and Pat admitted that they killed people for Manson, and they both insist they felt nothing when they did it (and neither of them felt remorse until about five years after the crimes). But attempting to connect the Manson murders to Nazi Germany doesn’t quite make sense.Ultimately, this book offers no real insight into Leslie and Pat and why they did what they did. It’s clear that Manson was an expert manipulator who collected people (and especially young women) who began to see him as a god-figure for whom they would give everything. And Meredith became very attached to Leslie, believing she deserves parole (even when she admits that other killers do not). But this is not Leslie’s book, and it is not Pat’s. It’s not even a book about the Manson murders (there’s very little here about what actually happened back in 1969). This is Nikki Meredith’s book about her own life and why she felt personally compelled to spend twenty years studying two murderers. As for Manson and his “Family” and the crimes they committed, there’s not much here. Read it for the memoir, but look elsewhere for the crime story.[Please note: I was provided an Advance Reading Copy of this novel free of charge; the opinions expressed here are my own.]
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  • R.J.
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free copy of the e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review which you can read at lucieninthestars.caI finished this book a few days ago but it has taken me since then to really think about how to go about this review. It’s a bit of a sensitive topic, so I will not be posting this review here, rather just keeping it on my blog so as to better control the comments. Also please note that while my review is free of triggers, links to various examples listed in my review may I received a free copy of the e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review which you can read at lucieninthestars.caI finished this book a few days ago but it has taken me since then to really think about how to go about this review. It’s a bit of a sensitive topic, so I will not be posting this review here, rather just keeping it on my blog so as to better control the comments. Also please note that while my review is free of triggers, links to various examples listed in my review may contain graphic and potentially triggering content. I would also warn that the book also contains unsettling content, so please be aware of the crime it is discussing before reading should that sort of thing be triggering to you.tl;dr - I give this book 5/5 stars for providing a new insight, tugging at emotions I didn't think were there and being an overall brilliant psychological profile.========================================2018-02-23: Never before have I become so emotional about true crime. RTC.
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  • Whitney
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsAn interesting, easy read. Overall I found the author's inclusion of memoir bits to be distracting, but she does have some intriguing insights into Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkle from her long-term communications with them, as well as into how the crimes changed US society as a whole.
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