Let me begin by saying that I like the fact that this isn't a chronology of events, per se. It's a look into Lynnette's experiences, which focus greatly on her perceptions and feelings as she remembers them. It's an opportunity to get into the head of an eighteen year old girl and see things through her eyes and heart.
Lynette begins this insightful, articulate chronicle of thoughts and experience alternating between her life as a child at home, mostly in the Westchester house that still preserves her stick signature at the corner of the concrete driveway, her first meeting with (and leaving home with) Charles Manson and Mary Brunner and her early experiences in places like The Haight and Mendocino.
In this early section of the book what the reader is engaged with her feelings of self doubt brought on in large part by her cold, painful relationship with her father who was an aeronautical engineer, and her early travels with Charlie and Mary. Her dad was wrapped up in his work and his studies, leaving him emotionally unavailable to her. He "...bared his teeth to me when he tried to teach me algebra."
She talks a bit about her studious, responsible nature as a child. She did her schoolwork and always worked side jobs. I liked her description of her time with the Westchester Lariats folk dance group that gave her the opportunity to travel: "I saw more lifestyles than I then realized, and nearly every state in the Union."
Her initial travels with Manson and Brunner were uncomfortable for her because of her love for Charlie and wanting to be more important to him than Mary. But development of her understanding for him was summed up for me in this short paragraph during their time in Mendocino. She sees Manson making her comfortable with their unconventional arrangement and Manson as having the world view of a small child:
"Back in the cabin were candles, clean bedding, and the embrace of stereo speakers. He settled down between us with an arm around each, made us comfortable, made us laugh, and appreciated the moment, sometimes dropping to sleep in the middle of a sentence. I lay awake in wonder of him. His view of the world was my earliest conscious dream."Her exposure to the freeing lifestyle with her companions begins a transformation in her, inside and out:
"The Mendocino summer turned us beautiful colors. On a walk through the woods, Mary and I stopped by a friend's cabin and were amused to find the latest fashion magazines advertising cosmetics to make you 'look like you just walked out of the woods! The 'Natural Look' was definitely IN. I felt natural. For the first time in my adult life, laughter welled from deep inside me rather than politely from my throat, and I became so interested in the world around me that I forgot to doubt myself. Then I remembered."And:
"... our minds traveling the past, present, and, rarely, the future. Being present for life was becoming real to me."What this first section of the book made me understand was that the life she lived at home left her worried about the past, the future and the empty feeling of her father's cold nature. Her early experiences with Manson and Brunner gave her a real feeling of being loved and more importantly, gave her the life-altering, freeing experience of living in the moment.