Narrator: Kathe Mazur
Length: 14 Hours 39 Minutes
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 2010-08-18
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Buy on Amazon
Told by a former high-level member of the Peoples Temple and Jonestown survivor, Seductive Poison is the "truly unforgettable" (Kirkus Review) story of how one woman was seduced by one of the most notorious cults in recent memory and how she found her way back to sanity.
From Waco to Heaven's Gate, the past decade has seen its share of cult tragedies. But none has been quite so dramatic or compelling as the Jonestown massacre of 1978, in which the Reverend Jim Jones and 913 of his disciples perished. Deborah Layton had been a member of the Peoples Temple for seven years when she departed for Jonestown, Guyana, the promised land nestled deep in the South American jungle. When she arrived, however, Layton saw that something was seriously wrong. Jones constantly spoke of a revolutionary mass suicide, and Layton knew only too well that he had enough control over the minds of the Jonestown residents to carry it out. But her pleas for help--and her sworn affidavit to the U.S. government--fell on skeptical ears. In this very personal account, Layton opens up the shadowy world of cults and shows how anyone can fall under their spell. Seductive Poison is both an unflinching historical document and a riveting story of intrigue, power, and murder.
Why Did I Listen To This Book?
Back in June, I got into a conversation with Lizzy Mason, a director of publicity at Bloomsbury Kids and Robin Benway, author extraordinaire about how I had fallen into the rabbit hole of Reddit reading an AMA featuring Julia Scheeres, who wrote A Thousand Lives and Jesus Land, books about religion. We got talking about books about cults and Lizzy recommended Seductive Poison by Deborah Layton. Being obsessed with cults and with memoirs, I immediately added it on my audible wishlist and bought it. Finally, in September, I listened to Seductive Poison because I take reading recommendations from other people quite seriously. What an absolutely riveting book!
What’s The Story Here?
The full title of the audiobook is: Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People’s Temple which should essentially tell you everything you need to know about Layton’s book. To go more in-depth though, it opens up and talks about Layton’s parents, how they met, the tragedy in her mother’s past, and then goes on to talk about Layton’s life growing up. She seemed to get a bit of attention as a child, but as she got older, she gets into trouble a lot and is kind of wild, so she goes to England for boarding school, where she meets this guy, of course. So, anyways, Layton joins the People’s Temple because she identifies with those who are disenfranchised and she wants to help and be a force for equality. The People’s Temple promotes equality and she really felt something going to her first service where Jim Jones was there. Anyways, Deborah begins to work her way up the ranks and finds herself more and more indoctrinated, believing Jim to be all powerful. She is so high up that she is able to sign checks and move all kinds of money around in accounts for the Temple. Eventually, she goes to Guyana to live in Jonestown with her mother who is ill with cancer. Deborah thinks that Jonestown will be utopian, what she finds, however, is way different from her expectations. From there, the book shifts over to Debbie’s escape from Jonestown and her testifying against the People’s Temple. Also, those totally aren’t spoilers as they are in the book’s official description.
How’s The Writing?
It’s weird, I never really think about how audiobooks have me on the edge of my seat, but this book, Seductive Poison totally had me on edge. You know how you can read something and with the sight of a person who isn’t in it, you find yourself saying NO DON’T MAKE THAT LIFE CHOICE, well, that’s how I felt. I was so worried for Layton. I mean, I got chills and creeped out whenever she wrote about Jim Jones, but that perception is colored by my knowledge of him as a cult leader. From reading this, I realize that he was powerful and charismatic — he knew how to make people feel important and needed, which won Layton over. I really think she wrote about the suspense and tension quite well. I can tell you that there was one part where I was driving and she was trying to escape and I was gripping the steering wheel so hard because I was so anxious while reading. So, if you like the writing of a book to evoke emotions within you, you totally should read Seductive Poison.
How’s The Narration?
Kathe Mazur is the narrator of Seductive Poison. She does a superb job embodying the emotions within the book. She does different voices as she reads and is not ever monotone or boring. Her voice is what I would expect for a young girl suckered into the deceptions of Jim Jones. I thought the pacing of her narration was great. The production values were pretty solid too. Deborah Layton’s Seductive Poison is 14 hours and 39 minutes long which is super long compared to the audios I normally listen to, yet I gobbled this one up quickly. I could not stop listening. That should tell you how good the narration is.
Who Should Read This Book?
- People interested in cults/people who are obsessed (i.e. me)
- People who need to develop empathy in the plight of others
- People who find sociology fascinating
- Fans of A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
- Anyone interested in memoirs