The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
The end of the People’s Temple is well known and notorious; the pictures of the mass murder/suicide spurred on by James Warren “Jim” Jones are etched in public memory. The beginnings of the movement are a little less well known. Jones was born in 1931 to Jim and Lynette Jones. He was raised in rural Indiana by a father incapacitated by a WWI-related illness and a mother whose ambition overwhelmed her skills. Jones would seek solace with certain townspeople and the church. His future as a religious leader would be clear as he grew but would be sealed after he met Marceline Baldwin. A nuclear fall-out fear led to Jones moving his followers to California to seek shelter. The church began to resemble the makings of a cult, with disobedience being punished with abuse and Jones taking a harem of women for his own pleasure. The church would persevere despite internal defections and outside scrutiny until the early 1970s. Jones looked to Guyana as a refuge, and his followers would help build a paradise. But it wouldn’t last.
Jeff Guinn’s take on the Jonestown massacre is riveting and vivid in its description of a socialist, religious movement. Jones is shown as debauched in his addictions, disloyal to his wife and followers, a paradox of chaos and calm who marched his people to a “revolutionary” end when faced with strife. Almost 40 years have passed, but for the survivors, the haunting memory lives on. A triumph of a read!
Simon & Schuster