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family [Hardcover]

Micol Ostow

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Book Description

April 26 2011
i have always been broken.
i could have. died.
and maybe it would have been better if i had.
 
It is a day like any other when seventeen-year-old Melinda Jensen hits the road for San Francisco, leaving behind her fractured home life and a constant assault on her self-esteem. Henry is the handsome, charismatic man who comes upon her, collapsed on a park bench, and offers love, a bright new consciousness, and—best of all—a family. One that will embrace her and give her love. Because family is what Mel has never really had. And this new family, Henry’s family, shares everything. They share the chores, their bodies, and their beliefs.  And if Mel truly wants to belong, she will share in everything they do. No matter what the family does, or how far they go.
Told in episodic verse, family is a fictionalized exploration of cult dynamics, loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969. It is an unflinching look at people who are born broken, and the lengths they’ll go to to make themselves “whole” again.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: EgmontUSA (April 26 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606841556
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606841556
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14.8 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,377,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

The only thing MICOL OSTOW enjoys more than reading and writing is being scared out of her ever-lovin’ wits. When she was 12, her father gifted her with a copy of Helter Skelter. Needless to say, it made an impact. 

Micol is the author of So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother), which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens, and which Booklist called “a rollicking, witty, and ultra-contemporary book that drums on the funny bone and reverberates through the heart.” She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and currently runs a popular young adult writing workshop through MediaBistro.com.

Micol lives and works in New York City with her filmmaker husband and a finicky French bulldog. Visit Micol at: www.micolostow.com.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gripping novel in verse June 19 2013
By Avid Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I picked up this book because I'd heard of the author, and didn't know anything about it - what it was about, that it was a fictionalized account of the Manson murders, nor that it would be written in verse (until I got home and opened it up). I found the book totally gripping, and was fascinated by the dip into a cult. It was insightful on understanding how and why someone can get involved with a cult, and be led to commit horrific crimes. The free verse style fit the topic matter perfectly (as much of the action is seen through a drug-induced haze), and was effectively written. Highly recommend.
3.0 out of 5 stars The ending was a turn off May 7 2012
By Donna C - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
First and foremost, I am NOT sympathetic to the whole hippie subculture. Not in the slightest. They need to shower and get jobs, quite frankly. And develop an opinion that isn't based in LSD highs and commune thought process. So why did I opt to review a book that is exactly this mentality? Because it's pretty much a roman a clef of the Manson family and I thought it'd be an interesting fictionalization. It further solidified my disdain for hippie speak and mentality and it was interesting but I felt the ending was a bit of a cop out.

Told in episodic verse, kind of expanded poetry, it kind of made the whole story a bit hazy to read. There were times I had trouble figuring out what was going on because the language got a bit purple but I could buy it as the flower child's thought process. So it wasn't too bad in that regard. But still it was a bit thick. Although it did do a good job in its thickness to portray life at the commune/cult. The flowery-ness flowed in the sexual drug haze that surrounded the MC all the time. And I really liked the little cracks in the facade, where Mel got bits and pieces of what all of this was really about but after some more magical mystery juice and free love she was sucked right back into it.

You get to see that all of these people in this compound are broken in some way. They've been wronged by the people they loved in one regard or another and they ultimately come together in that wrongness to try and make it right. It's really a nice route to recovery. Too bad their leader was a sociopath that kept them doped so he could manipulate them into doing what he wanted done. He perverted the message for his own gain. Not surprising in the slightest but it was interesting to watch the world break down from broken eyes.

The ending . . . I don't believe this to be a spoiler because we all know how the Manson story ended. If you don't I highly recommend a history textbook. Well the story culminated with an event much like the Mason family brought to fruition except in FAMILY one of the victims escapes and the MC gets away. Fail. Hard. Yeah, awesome, that she came to a hardcore self-realization at the end there. Super. She's also an accessory to murder. No sympathy from this chick right here. Sorry. I don't know what I was supposed to feel or meant to feel but I was wholly expecting her to run into the arms of the cops. Nope. She runs off into the night and the story is left hanging. An exceptionally unsatisfactory ending. I don't find this artsy or endearing or quintessential to the whole hippie mindset. I needed it to go down like the real event it was modeled after. I think Mel would have resonated far more as a character if she didn't get to run away from her problems for a second time.

Don't get me wrong; it wasn't a bad book. I just wasn't thrilled with it. I liked the character development and the set-up of the story, the cracks in the hippie visage, even though the prose was on the flowery side. But the ending was a killer for me. Very anti-climatic and I didn't feel like there was any kind of justice done. Mel just gets to continue her cycle of running yet again because she's been broken yet again. It felt empty and the escape unearned. After a few months of hedonism you get to get away with conspiring to murder a houseful of people because the high wears off and you realize what you're doing. Um, no.

So yeah. It was a quick read because of the verse which I'm kinda glad for. I don't think I could have taken this story if it were denser although I'd tolerate it if the ending were fixed.
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too long Jan. 23 2012
By Brekah - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
It was an interesting book and it definitely led me to read up on the Manson Family, which I had known nothing about. I also found, however, that it was repetitive, belaboring Mel's opinion of herself and the world around her. I feel as though the repetition could have been decreased in favor of the verse pushing forward her point of view. The very ending, for example, is powerful for its terseness, and I wish this had applied to the rest of the book.
4.0 out of 5 stars This novel told in lyric verse will make your skin crawl. Dec 23 2011
By E. Kristin Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This novel told in lyric verse will make your skin crawl.

Of course, what else would you expect from a story based on the Manson Family murders?

FAMILY chronicles the life of seventeen-year-old Melinda Jensen from the time she leaves home, to when she is found on a park bench by charismatic Henry, and through her time with Henry and her family -- the young men and women who live on an abandoned movie set ("the ranch") outside of L.A. Melinda, a broken girl having suffered abuse at the hands of her stepfather (and neglect at the hands of her mother) is easily charmed by Henry, and the love she receives both from him and from her new brothers and sisters. Henry is her father, her brother, her lover. He is God, a prophet, and it won't be long before he has Melinda and her sisters wound so tightly around his finger that they will do anything in his name.

Micol Ostow`s latest is chilling, to say the least. Those who are familiar with the Manson murders and the cult surrounding them will find lots of similarities -- many scenes, as they say, "ripped from the headlines." But the author takes the story beyond history, gets into the heart of Melinda, of the lost teenage girls who were Manson's victims. This is a book about the strength and fragility of the human spirit. And while a book like FAMILY is certainly not for the faint of heart, those who can handle a tough story are sure to be entranced by it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing & Haunting, But Engrossing All The Same Oct. 13 2011
By Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
3.5 stars

Family is one of the most disturbing and terrifying, yet oddly captivating, books that I have ever read. As someone who only knows the barest facts about the Manson family murders, Micol Ostow's take on 17 year old Mel's descent into cult life is haunting and creepy. We get to see her slowly, but surely lose herself to this notion of family; which is ludicrous and all kinds of messed up, but for someone who has come from so little and so much pain, it makes sense to Mel.

I couldn't see the appeal or allure that Henry (the Charles Manson-esque figure) has. It's difficult to understand why so many people would follow him willingly and look at him like a Jesus Christ figure. Mel, Sherry, Leila, Junior, and all the people we don't hear from view Henry as a savior and a preacher.

Ostow solidifies this fact with her episodic verse, having Henry's name, His references, be the only things that stand out with capitalization. It's to ensure that he reader knows, without a doubt, that Henry is running the show. He has essentially brainwashed these people, forced their lives to revolve around him, and has put them into a drug-induced stupor at times, to benefit His own wants and needs.

Mel's life has become the Henry show and she's willing to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. It's incredibly sad. Mel's life before Henry was miserable, but her life after Henry isn't really a step up at all. At times, I wanted to hug her, but then other times I wanted to slap some sense into her; yell at her so she could see what's going on, that she has been indoctrinated into a desolate cult that's only purpose is to serve this Henry. What she's experiencing isn't love and even though a part of Mel knows that, she doesn't care. Her desire to be wanted and accepted - even if it's false - overrides the voice in the back of her mind that's telling her not to trust her situation.

Family is incredibly disturbing with its back and forth from the slow, despondent fall into cult life, to its hints of the danger that's to come. Ostow has taken a story that many have at least the vaguest idea of and expanded upon it, dropped the reader into an endlessly forlorn situation and done so splendidly. Episodic verse works in this situation, making each day more painful and fractured. Knowing that things are going to end in a bloodbath makes Mel's life that much more affecting and I was glued to the page.
ARRAY(0xb002a6f0)

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