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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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: EgmontUSA (April 26 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606841556
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606841556
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 3.2 x 22 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #774,413 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

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

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  19 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
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping tale based loosely on the Manson family May 15 2011
By Brittany Moore - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
mel is a shell of a girl. raped by her "uncle" and abandoned by her mother. mel decides she must head to the city of angels, california. this is where she meets Him, Henry. He is the thing that can save her. she can do His bidding and in turn He will let her into the family. with the family and Henry, mel might be able to fill in all those dark spaces inside. when life with the family turns dark though, mel has to decide if it can still fill her up, or if she will have to try to be whole somewhere else.

This was a very intense story. I wish I didn't know so much about the Manson family going into it. It distracted me, because I kept trying to compare people and decide who each character represented. This was very well written though. Mel's character was intense and broken and drugged, and it made her story have a sort of repetitive haze. Sometimes the repetition was a bit much, but overall I loved the effect it lent to the story. I appreciated that everything was lowercase, except for Him, Henry, He. It showed what a significant role Henry played in the life of the family and it's members. I can see how someone could get sucked into a position like Mel and the others. If you are already a little weak, and looking for people who might respect and love you, a family could seem ideal. If they make you feel good, you may even go to any lengths in order to remain with them. You may even do things you know in your gut to be wrong, because in your mind, it's the right thing to do. It also helps when your tripping on acid and the like. I really love reading about cults, even though they send chills up my spine. This book is very outside the box of Micol Ostow's other novels(Crush du Jour, Gettin' Lucky etc.), but luckily it was completely fantastic. If you have ever been interested at an inside look of a girl who finds herself going along with a cult, this may just be the one for you. Be careful though, because Mel's narrative is addictive and might just leave you wanting and needing something yourself. This is a book everyone should read, it may not be a light and fun read, but you'll be glad you read it.

First Line:
"i have always been broken."

Favorite Lines:
"her driver's license says that she is nineteen and that she has come to us from the far east--new hampshire."

"when I was six years old, i drowned. [luckily it didn't take.]"
3.0 out of 5 stars The ending was a turn off May 7 2012
By Donna C - Published on
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
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
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.

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