What a fascinating glimpse into the life and mind of Jim Jones..the infamous cult leader behind the Jonestown settlement in Guyana. Jones is probably most remembered for forcing the suicide (so...murder?) of his cult in 1978. He can also be credited with adding the phrase "drink the Kool Aid" to the pop culture lexicon thanks to killing his Peoples Temple members with the addition of cyanide poison into vats of Flavor Aid (a Kool Aid knock off).
Jeff Guinn starts at the beginning -- with Jones's birth. It was so interesting to see the evolution of Jim Jones. We go from his childhood and eventual marriage to Marceline...to Jones's hopping around church denominations...to the establishment of the Peoples Temple...and then, ultimately, to Jonestown. One can easily find the horrific images of the aftermath at Jonestown...but HOW does it get to that point? Guinn sympathetically presents the information to where one feels sorrow at its culmination...as well as anger that it even happened.
I will note that the book, while continually moving forward, does seem to stall out about halfway through. One can only state so many times how Jones was a bona fide con man during Temple services. Guinn presented Jim Jones's cancer "healing" trick on several occasions...each time presenting it like he hadn't already addressed it before. It just became a bit repetitive to continually visit service after service in town after town of Jones conning the service attendees. Once I was through that bit, however, the book picked back up as we sped toward Jonestown.
Ultimately, this book documents a tragedy that is almost incomprehensible. How does one man control the minds of over 900 people to where they would kill themselves (some willingly, some not) just because he says so? Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Or, was Jim Jones evil from the very beginning?