I wanted to tell everyone about this book. I have never read a memoir that was this honest or this terrifying. Deborah Layton was a member of the People's Temple for 7 years. She was one of Jim Jones trusted few. This is a true "insider account" of what happened. Ms Layton has the rare ability of pulling the reader into the story. It allows you to feel and understand the working of a cult from the inside out.. You see the path that led her to Jones and the bravery it took for her to leave. As a confused and rebellious adolescent Layton was attracted to Jim Jones' religious movement for its radical teachings on inter racialism and social justice. As a member of his inner circle, she saw things that made her secretly question him, though she remained faithful to his socialist vision. Layton paints a graphic picture of how Jones exercised confusing emotional, sexual and physical manipulation and abuse. This mixture of love, fear and a sense of purpose, the sense of working for a greater good, kept her there for seven years and kept others there until the end. In December 1977 Layton (along with her Mother who had also joined) traveled to the new headquarters in Jonestown, Guyana. Upon arrival they discover that the residents were enduring a living hell. The conditions were appalling. Constant middle of the night suicide drills followed by 16 hour work days in unbearable heat. People are near starvation. There is a constant fear of being labeled a "traitor" and the punishment that would follow. With no money, passport or way of contacting anyone on the outside Layton finds a way to escape. It's heart pounding and terrifying. My hands were shaking as each new obstacle unfolded itself. She returns to the United States with dire warnings, trying to get help for her sick Mother who is still there. (Layton's Mother died of cancer a few days before the "mass suicide". She died with no pain killers. They were confiscated upon arrival in Jonestown and given to Jones) No one believes the people inside are being held hostage by the infamous Jones and his growing madness. Only months after her escape, the Jonestown Mass Suicide/Murder occurred. Deborah Layton was one of the few who escaped. Her story is told in an honest and insightful way. It's a riveting, nail biting, heart pounding, stay up all night book that reads like a novel.
Deborah Layton's brother was also a member of the People's Temple. He was the only one held accountable for the murder of Leo Ryan, members of his staff and some members of the media who came with them. He did not actually kill anyone although he did injure a photograher. The photographer testified in his behalf. He felt Larry Layton was so completely brainwashed that he should not be held accountable.
If anyone else has read this I would love to hear your thoughts.