Member of the Family by Dianne Lake

Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties by Dianne Lake & Deborah Herman

Published October 24th, 2017 by William Morrow

Genres Nonfiction, Memoir

Pages 384

Goodreads / Amazon

In this poignant and disturbing memoir of lost innocence, coercion, survival, and healing, Dianne Lake chronicles her years with Charles Manson, revealing for the first time how she became the youngest member of his Family and offering new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminals and life as one of his “girls”. At age fourteen Dianne Lake—with little more than a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them—became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. Over the course of two years, the impressionable teenager endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as the harsh realities and looming darkness of Charles Manson’s true nature revealed itself. From Spahn ranch and the group acid trips, to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s dangerous messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness as she lived it. Though she never participated in any of the group’s gruesome crimes and was purposely insulated from them, Dianne was arrested with the rest of the Manson Family, and eventually learned enough to join the prosecution’s case against them. With the help of good Samaritans, including the cop who first arrested her and later adopted her, the courageous young woman eventually found redemption and grew up to lead an ordinary life. While much has been written about Charles Manson, this riveting account from an actual Family member is a chilling portrait that recreates in vivid detail one of the most horrifying and fascinating chapters in modern American history.

I have previously read Helter Skelter, along with watching many documentaries about the Manson Family, but I have yet to read a book or watch a documentary that was written by one of the members of the Mason Family. The author has divided this book into 3 parts; the first part explains her life prior to joining the Family and how she eventually ended up the Family, the second part tells about her time, about 2 years, with the Mason Family and the third part tells about her experience escaping the Family and finally testifying against Charles Manson and other Family members during their trials.

This book was disturbing, from the first chapters I was shocked that her own parents introduced her to marijuana and LCD at the age of 13 or 14. I understand that this was a different time and her parents got involved in the hippie counter culture of the time, but it was still fairly shocking to read about a father giving his young teenage daughter LCD. It was interesting to see how both her own choices and her parent’s choices led her to become involved with the Family. The second part of the book is equally fascinating and disturbing as she describes the two years spent with the Manson Family and how it was from an LCD fueled commune type community to the horror by which the Manson Family is now remembered for. She also describes in detail how Charles Manson changed over those years and the abuse she and the other girls endured. The third part was also great as it talked about how she recovered once she escaped the Family, how her testimony in court helped the State of California bring down a guilty verdict and how she went on to create a pretty great life for herself.

Although Dianne was not part of the horrific crimes committed by the Family members, she was witness to them describing the events to her after the fact. She joined the group when they were still roaming around in the black painted school bus and the Spiral Staircase House then stayed with them, spending a great deal of time at both Spahn and Barker Ranches, which she describes in detail. I have always been interested in cults, I am not sure why they are so interesting to me, but I really enjoyed this book being written from a former Manson Family member, as it gave an inside to what she was thinking and why she stayed with the group, even when she knew things were starting to head in a dark direction.


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