Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: The Road To Jonestown


This was a book that I was surprised by. The author Jeff Guin really digs into Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. He starts by tracing the early days in rural Indiana, where his childhood was experienced. Then it hurls to the last day, November 1978. This is a story that is memorable, so evil you can't understand how it happens. It was very intriguing, mainly because we all know how this tragic story ends. 

When I first checked this story, I was shocked and unsure how things went so wrong.  The research in this book is so deep and broad. He has many different sources and interviews with people. Mainly the people are survivors and defectors, and the records of the supposed church. He also managed to get a hold of Jones' rambling words, the recorded sermons, and journals. 

Nothing is held back. It even included so much that I was unaware of.  It showed the lives and work of people in the Peoples Temple. The things before Jones' took over and turned it into his personal game. There was so much I learned, so much that I don't think many people have read about. Things that are extremely important. 

The main thing I learned was Jones was obsessed with religion, an obsession that possessed him even as a child. But he also enjoyed tricking and harming things. He always seems to have the charm that attracted people. He also really liked being in control. Control is something that consumes people, and for Jones, it became his entire world. 

The biggest shock to me was he really didn't rope people to move to the jungle. Actually, people would really compete for the honor. Which is not what I expected, and is something that is different from other cults. 

The quote that will haunt me forever is from  Jim Jones Jr., one of the surviving sons of Jim and Marceline Jones: 
'Kool-Aid rather than equality is what the rest of the world remembers. The survivors are left to console themselves...' Jim Jones Jr. sighs, smiles, and concludes, 'What I'd say about Peoples Temple is, we failed, but damn, we tried.'
I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in psychology and mentality of cult groups. While this book doesn't answer every question we have it does help give some perspective. 

Disclaimer: I received this book from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster

Goodreads Description: 

By the New York Times bestselling author of Manson, the comprehensive, authoritative, and tragic story of preacher Jim Jones, who was responsible for the Jonestown Massacre—the largest murder-suicide in American history.

In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially integrated, and he was a much-lauded leader in the contemporary civil rights movement. Eventually, Jones moved his church, Peoples Temple, to northern California. He became involved in electoral politics, and soon was a prominent Bay Area leader.

In this riveting narrative, Jeff Guinn examines Jones’s life, from his extramarital affairs, drug use, and fraudulent faith healing to the fraught decision to move almost a thousand of his followers to a settlement in the jungles of Guyana in South America. Guinn provides stunning new details of the events leading to the fatal day in November, 1978 when more than nine hundred people died—including almost three hundred infants and children—after being ordered to swallow a cyanide-laced drink.

Guinn examined thousands of pages of FBI files on the case, including material released during the course of his research. He traveled to Jones’s Indiana hometown, where he spoke to people never previously interviewed, and uncovered fresh information from Jonestown survivors. He even visited the Jonestown site with the same pilot who flew there the day that Congressman Leo Ryan was murdered on Jones’s orders. The Road to Jonestownis the definitive book about Jim Jones and the events that led to the tragedy at Jonestown.

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