Review: Member of The Family by Dianne Lake and Deborah Herman


Release date: October 24, 2017

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: Memoir, True Crime


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.


What a harrowing, sad and compelling read this was, Dianne Lake was the youngest member of Charles Manson’s Family and she goes into great detail revealing the three years she spent as a member of one of the most notorious cults in the world. Since she was just a child during her time with Manson this is all the more haunting to know that such a young girl experienced so many horrors at the hands of a deranged and sick individual. Even knowing it’s all true it’s hard to imagine that the events she describes actually happened, at times I forgot I wasn’t reading a fictional tale.

Unlike many books out there about Charles Manson this doesn’t focus solely on the horrific murders but instead is truly Lake’s personal story beginning in her young childhood up until she met Manson and then some bits and pieces about her adult life. As fascinated as I was by the stories she shared about the way The Family lived and obeyed Manson, the psychological aspect really gripped me. This was a teenaged girl who was not only engaging in adult activities such as group sex, drug abuse and an incredibly unstable, transient lifestyle she was also being controlled and manipulated by an older man with awful intentions and also abused her both physically, verbally and emotionally. It was truly sickening and her bravery at sharing the darkest moments of her life was impressive.

If you’re interested at all in what life is like living in a cult this is the book for you, Lake is unflinchingly honest about what she was thinking and feeling during her time in The Family and her memory of events so many years ago is seriously amazing. Since she wasn’t present during the murders they honestly don’t play a huge role in the story, but this is still a very fascinating psychological look at how one can fall prey to the manipulation of a conman.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

10 thoughts on “Review: Member of The Family by Dianne Lake and Deborah Herman

  1. Mike Fuller Author says:

    While a young detective I witnessed the sadness, frustration and pain a family suffered when their teenaged daughter got swept into the clutches of a manipulative, silver tongued thief. Mom’s jewelry was recovered. The girl struggled to defy her family but eventually broke the spell of her 25 year old “boyfriend” and returned to her home. It had to come from her, no adult could pierce the angry armor she had wrapped around her. I am sure the hefty jail sentence the creep received from the charges we filed kept him from preying, at least for a while. This book sounds a familiar tone. It is now on my TBR list!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ann Marie says:

    Great review! Helter Skelter was one of the first true crime books I read as a teenager. I’ve been slightly obsessed with the Manson family since. I can’t wrap my head around becoming involved with a cult but these leaders are masters at identifying what each person is missing in their lives and convincing them they are the only ones who love them enough to fulfill the need. So glad she managed to get out.

    Liked by 1 person

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