Monday, May 15, 2006

Book #3: Seductive Poison by Deborah Layton

Ok, I've been totally sucking at my lame 20 Book Challenge, but I managed to finish a few these past few weeks and I've still got a few on the go. Now with my new job in bookland, I'll have to step up the reading a touch.

A few months ago, I worked on a documentary on the Jonestown Massacre (look it up on Wikipedia, I'm too lazy to add a link). Basically, a bunch of senior citizens, poor blacks and hispanics, recovering druggies and do-gooder socialists/hippies joined Jim Jones's Peoples Temple thinking they were going to change the world. So how come 900 of these people ended up dead in the jungle in Guyana?

We've all heard of the killer Kool Aid, and many of us have the image of the bloated bodies in the jungle burned into our minds, but how many of us really know what happened? How many of us can possibly know the type of ideology and manipulation that would lead so many people to take their own lives at the command of one man? I mean families were found holding each other. Babies, children, old people. Horrific. Some people lost every single person they'd ever known in this mass suicide.

So after transcribing the disturbing interview of a father, whose ex-wife slit the throat of his daughter and two of her other children before killing herself -- long story and the most disturbing, because of all the members that weren't in the actual Jonestown camp, this woman was the only one who went through with the orders to commit suicide -- I needed to know more about these events. A quick search on Amazon, and then the Toronto Public Library website (did you know we have the busiest library system in the world?) lead me to this book.

I always thought that people who got involved in cults were idiots, and it could never happen to someone like me. This memoir changed my view. Seductive Poison depicts a woman who started out wanting to do something good for society, and therefore, how any one of us could fall into a cult and not know it until it was too late. It details the mind games and horrific abuse these people suffered, but also shows how it all began with the purest of intentions. The author, Deborah Layton, is a defector of the cult. Her detailed description of her defection is as nerve-wracking as any thriller you have seen in a theatre. The entire book is riveting and gave me chills before bedtime --- but not in a cheesy True Crime type way. It's definitely not like reading about Karla Homolka or something. And it's extremely well written for someone who works in finance by day.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something between heavy literature and chicklit. It's an easy read without being too fluffy. Plus the story is so interesting that you can't put the book down. I know many of us are turned off of memoirs after the whole James Frey debacle, but give this one a chance.

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