The Girl from Jonestown; authentic, compassionate, horrifying

The Girl from Jonestown is a haunting story portraying how power can turn charisma to rot. It is based on true events that horrified the world in 1978. Although the main characters in the novel are fiction I didn’t quite appreciate how true the story was until I was a few chapters in. Even though I was not really aware of the devastating history of Jonestown prior to reading this novel by Guyanese author Sharon Maas, the cult of the Peoples Temple did ring vague bells with me. By that time I was fully invested in the captivating but very disturbing story.

Mainly set in the Guyanese jungle, the thriller centres around journalist Zoe Quint who is still recovering from the tragic loss of her young husband. After spending some time travelling the world in an escape to run away from all she has lost, Zoe returns to her home country of Guyana in South America to try and write a book based on her travels. She ventures to the North West of the country, a district ‘so remote they haven’t troubled to name it.’ Here she keeps hearing about the Jonestown community, a group of mass settlers that have come to escape the capitalism of America, ‘not hippies…some crazy church.’

Although ‘some preacher giving a sermon‘ can be heard on loud speaker across the nearby remote jungle communities ‘day and night,’ those that love and care for Zoe tell her to ignore it and stay away from Jonestown. Yet Zoe’s journalistic curiosity is ignited when she encounters Lucy, a Jonestown settler who is raw with terror as she pleads with Zoe for help.

This sets in place a chain of events involving intrigue, spies and government corruption as Zoe tries to get close to the ‘Father’ of the Jonestown settlement, Jim Jones. But at what cost to Zoe, to the vulnerable people she is trying to help and to Guyana, the country she loves?

Sharon Maas

Please note I am being quite vague in my review of The Girl from Jonestown as I don’t want to give away any spoilers if you do not know the history of the settlement. If you do know the history, I think you will find this book a real page turner, enhancing your understanding of the tragedy.

Although I don’t think Sharon Maas encountered the infamous Jim Jones or any Jonestown settlers herself, she had very personal reasons for writing this powerful book. Maas comments that ‘ Jonestown brought notoriety to Guyana; undeservedly so…the words Jonestown and Guyana have ever since been irreversibly linked, to the discomfort of Guyanese everywhere.’ Maas tells the horrific tragedy of the historic event from an authentic Guyanese point of view that is full of compassion.

The Girl from Jonestown was released by digital publisher Bookouture on Thursday 23 June, so it is available for you all to read. Thank you to Sarah Hardy from Bookouture for inviting me to the blog tour, ultimately bringing my attention to this heart breaking story in history. To follow the blog tour, please see below.

Please note if you have recently read my book review column in the June issue of the Didsbury Post, I did include The Girl from Jonestown. However since the publication of the newspaper, the name of the novel has been changed from A Home for the Lost to the new title.

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