In 1954, a pastor named Jim Jones opened a church in Indianapolis called People’s Temple Full Gospel Church. He was a charismatic preacher with idealistic beliefs, and he quickly filled his pews with an audience eager to hear his sermons on social justice. After Jones moved his church to Northern California in 1965, he became a major player in Northern California politics; he provided vital support in electing friendly political candidates to office, and they in turn offered him a protective shield that kept stories of abuse and fraud out of the papers. Even as Jones’s behavior became erratic and his message more ominous, his followers found it increasingly difficult to pull away from the church. By the time Jones relocated the Peoples Temple a final time to a remote jungle in Guyana and the U.S. Government decided to investigate allegations of abuse and false imprisonment in Jonestown, it was too late.
I have often heard the term “drinking the koolaid” and have even said it a time or two, but until I finished this book, I didn’t know the originals of the saying. Not growing up or attending school in the United States means that things many people learned in their history classes, I am clueless about (and don’t even get my started on my lack of knowledge of politics)…but when I was listening to Ice Cold (Tess Gerritsen), the Jonestown cult and massacre was mentioned and I was intrigued. And funnily enough, I was talking to some coworkers at the same time I was reading this and one of them mentioned the phrase and I was then about to put two and two together to understand. I then found out about this book while I was trying to find a book set in Guyana for my Around the World reading challenge – so it was like hitting two birds with one stone.
I loved how the author was able to use various documents that had been released by the FBI to develop the picture of what happened – since there is very little eye-witness testimony and most of the people who did survive (not that there were many of them) have since died. I was actually surprised to see the amount of information that had been recovered from the camp after the massacre was discovered. I found that the author did a good job of weaving the tale to make it interesting, I wanted to know about what happened. It wasn’t like a normal NF book where I can read bits and pieces and be ok with stopped, in the end, I think I read this in about 3 days, which is significantly less time than most non-fiction books that I read. I will definately be looking for her other book to read and will be interested to see what more she writes in the future. 3.5 stars.