THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN: JIM JONES AND PEOPLES TEMPLE
by Jeff Guinn
I think we have all heard the phrase "Don't drink the kool-aid." This refers to the mass murder of over 900 members of the Peoples Temple in 1978. Their leader Jim Jones instructed them to drink cyanide laced kool-aid, although babies and the unwilling were injected with the concoction. How did this happen? Jim Jones started as a minister in Indiana. When he began preaching he really did care about the poor, down trodden, and forgotten Americans. With his charismatic personality and flair for showmanship he eventually had a large following. He moved his flock to California where they lived communally. But, as Jim Jones began becoming more powerful he began to take drugs to keep himself going. He rarely slept. His drug use coupled with the adulation shown to him by his parishioners was his undoing. Instead of preaching about God he began proclaiming he was God. He began extramarital affairs and fathered two children outside of his marriage. He became paranoid that the U.S. government was after him and that the end of the world was coming soon. He decided he must move his congregation to a safer, remote location. Guyana in South American, deep in the forests, was his choice. Once he moved everyone there, he became even more paranoid and controlling. No one was allowed to own anything. He had control of all the money. Even if someone wanted to leave, there was virtually no way to make that happen. How could one make his/her way through the dense forest with no money or supplies? Eventually some family members in the United States became suspicious and sent congressman Leo Ryan to investigate what was happening in Guyana. Jim Jones' henchmen murdered Ryan and from there things went down hill quickly. Rather than lose his followers, Jones ordered them all to drink the cyanide laced kool-aid. The babies were injected first. Anyone who didn't willingly drink the kool-aid was forcibly injected with it. Jim Jones was the only one who didn't drink it. He shot himself in the head instead. This book is troubling but fascinating. It's hard to believe one person could persuade so many to do his command. It's truly a cautionary tale.
Reviewed by Mimi @ Genoa Branch Library