Guyana: Escaping the Cult

I have a hard time to place books that are fictive, but they are still based on a true story, into a genre. Jim Jones was the cult leader of Peoples Temple in Guyana. Everything happened before I was born, but I remember reading and hearing about it later. Jones was responsible for the mass murder and mass suicide of his cult members in 1978. ‘Drinking the Kool-Aid’ has the saddest story behind the saying; many children were poisoned by drinking Kool-Aid with a hint of cyanide.

Children of Paradise by Fred D’Aguiar is however not about this per se. It is about a girl Trina, her mother Joyce, and Adam, a gorilla, living on cult grounds. Trina is playing close to Adam’s cage and suddenly she is “dead”. The preacher however manages to “revive” her back to life, and he becomes even a bigger god-like figure for the cult members. Trina gains a special position in the community as well. Joyce realizes that there are many things wrong within the community and wants to escape with her daughter.

This book might be a good description about life on cult grounds, but truth be told I prefer to read nonfiction in the cases when it is actually possible to do that. I’ve read about the real events online, and I think it’s an excellent story, I just wish it wasn’t a true story. When so many innocent lives are lost because of one insane man it just does not make sense to me.

What bothers me most about this book is magical realism. Luckily it does not have a massive impact on the book, but it is still there. After reading one book from every country in the world I think I’ll simply take a break from reading Latin American literature for awhile, because magical realism and me simply do not get along.

What I like about the book is the bond between a mother and a daughter. I like that their bond is stronger than the bond either one has with the cult leader. As it seems to me in most of these cults the leader demands a “no-questions-asked” loyalty from all of his members. If there’s a possibility of shunning people, this quite often happens, it doesn’t matter what biological bonds the person has, the cult and its leader are above everything else.

It is a decent read, but somehow I felt a distance between me, the book and its characters. It’s hard to explain but I felt like I was reading the book through a mist. It lacked clarity and I did not feel for the characters, I was not moved. I should have been moved several times, but it just did not happen. I don’t know if I should blame myself or the book.

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