Well-written, disturbing tale of faith and evil.



Haunting account of the Peoples Temple, focusing on Jim Jones’ many victims.

Scheeres (Jesus Land: A Memoir, 2005) notes that her personal experience at a Christian reform school made her empathetic to the luckless individuals who died at the Jonestown settlement in Guyana, since derided as cultists or worse: “My aim here is to help readers understand the reasons that people were drawn to Jim Jones and his church.” Accomplishing this goal with crisp prose and impressive research, she delivers a sort of ’70s social thriller with the weight of onrushing tragedy. Scheeres dove into 50,000 pages of FBI documents, released to little fanfare, including diaries of true believers and reams of bizarre correspondence between Jones and his inner circle, proving that he was considering ways to kill his followers for years prior to the mass-murder suicide. Jones’ early years remain confounding: He began preaching as a Pentecostal in Indiana in the 1950s, fighting for integration long before it was considered safe to do so. His apparent passion for social justice in these early years won him a devoted, largely African-American congregation. Upon moving to California in the late ’60s, Jones cultivated ties to the state’s power structure, which gave political cover to his increasingly wealthy and secretive church. “In the early days,” write Scheeres, “there was a real sense of camaraderie in Jonestown”—but this changed after Jones arrived there permanently in 1977. By then, Jones had rejected most elements of mainstream Christianity in favor of something much darker; he’d become obsessed with “revolutionary suicide,” a concept advanced by Huey Newton, which Jones deliberately misinterpreted. Scheeres shows great compassion and journalistic skill in reconstructing Jonestown’s last months and the lives of many Temple members (including a few survivors), showing the documents archived by the FBI “tell a nightmarish tale of…idealists who realized, too late, that they were trapped.”

Well-written, disturbing tale of faith and evil.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9639-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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