It is impossible to be a Jonestown voyeur without getting to the point of asking “how?” How did so many people get caught up in the mess that will go down in history as the twentieth century’s craziest religious moment.
The answer for one former member emerged this year, as Laura Johnston Kohl finally published her memoir. For the blood-thirsty and the blame-mongers, this book will come as a major disappointment. It is not an in-depth dissection of the events. It is instead a medium in which Ms. Kohl attempts to honour her life and pays homage to those who guided her and pays respect to those who died.
It doesn’t damn anybody or heap undue praise either. Rather she takes responsibility for her own part in any downfalls that happened both on a Universal and Personal level.
This isn’t the most fluid book I have read, and on many occasions I felt that more detail was required. An example of the lack of information would be the post November 18 events in Guyana. I would have appreciated to get deeper into the minds of her and the various survivors.
This isn’t that sort of book though. And rightly so.
There are many names of people that we have never have heard of before. In a lot of ways, I suspect this is just Laura’s way of letting some people that make up her history know that they have never been forgotten and are still loved and appreciated.
When I ordered this book, I sent Laura an email asking her if it was a difficult process writing this book. She said that it was hard. For many years people had been asking her to write the story of her experiences, but she felt she couldn’t until all the other pieces of her life were solid.
She did tell me that she feels the book can never really be done. “Each time I picked it up to review it or add to it, I had to add more thoughts and feelings.”
I am really glad she wrote this book. This is not a hysterical account. Instead it is a book for anyone who wants to get into the mind of a Peoples Temple member or a Jonestown survivor. More importantly, it is an incredibly humble expression of a life, a life that has many more chapters to still write.