Leslie's Reviews > Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple

Seductive Poison by Deborah Layton
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's review
Dec 01, 2008

really liked it
Read in November, 2008

The Jonestown tragedy happened a few years before I was born, so prior to reading this book I knew very little about the People's Temple and Jim Jones. I saw a news story one day that marked the twentieth anniversary of the mass suicide, and I poked around online until I came across Deborah Layton's book.

Layton was a privileged, rebellious teenager when she was introduced to the People's Temple and the world of its charismatic leader, Jim Jones. She is a talented and passionate storyteller, tracing the evolution of the Temple from a socially conscious advocacy organization that helped the poor, homeless, and drug addicted to a perversion of socialism that brainwashed, abused, and terrorized its members. Layton's brother, sister in law, and mother all joined the cult as well. The latter two traveled with her to Jones'so called Promised Land in the jungles of Guyana, where members were held prisoner and ruled by lies and fear.

Layton's eventual escape led to an American contingent of a congressman, members of the press, and concerned relatives traveling to Guyana only to be ambushed by Jones' security forces. Hours later, Jones ordered the mass suicide, his soldiers killing any who refused to drink the poison.

The story is compelling and heart breaking. Layton debunks myths about cults by portraying the lives of intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, and others from all walks of life who joined the Temple. It's frightening how insidious the transformation of the Temple was from a legitimate commmunity organization to a cult ruled by a sociopath. She shows us how any of us could fall prey to a charismatic leader only to have things go terribly wrong.

This is a fantastic book. Read it.
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