Raven Book Summary - Raven Book explained in key points
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Raven summary

Tim Reiterman with John Jacobs

The Untold Story of the Reverend Jim Jones and His People

15 mins

Brief summary

Raven by Tim Reiterman with John Jacobs is a shocking account of the 1978 mass suicide of Jonestown. It reveals the chilling details of cult leader Jim Jones' rise to power and the terrifying events that led to the tragic deaths of over 900 people.

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    As a child, Jim Jones was both sympathetic and sadistic; he craved above all power and control.

    Jim Jones was born in Indiana and raised by mostly absent parents, who left their eccentric child to his own devices.

    Since Jones’s father was unemployed and alcoholic, his mother worked long hours to provide for the family and was absent most days from home.

    Despite his mother’s best intentions, the Jones household was a place neither warm nor caring; Jones later remarked that he lamented not having a close-knit family and was long plagued by feelings of being different and alone in the world.

    To cope, Jones sought community, visiting neighborhood churches. He carried a Bible with him everywhere he went. He was also sympathetic toward others whom he saw as marginalized.

    The family’s house sat near the local railroad tracks, and many homeless people lived rough in the area. Jones would often give food to these needy individuals.

    As Jones grew up, however, he also developed an overwhelming need to exert power and control over others.

    He read obsessively about historical figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Josef Stalin, Karl Marx and especially, Adolf Hitler. He pondered their strengths and weaknesses, and examined what led each man toward success or failure.

    At one point, Jones converted a nearby barn loft into a church in which he would conduct services.

    In a disturbing sign of his controlling nature, he also one evening decided to lock up two of his friends in this space overnight. On another occasion, Jones went hunting with his best friend, Don. While deep in the forest, Jones aimed his gun at Don and threatened to shoot him, unless he stopped walking.

    Jones also showed his sadistic streak with animals; one time he removed the leg of a chicken and tried to attach it to a duck.

    As we’ll see in the next blink, Jones was also learning how to mask his darker nature with a persuasively charming personality.

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    What is Raven about?

    Raven (1982) reveals the untold story of Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple in Jonestown, the site of a mass murder in which 917 people lost their lives on one fateful day in 1979. These blinks give you a closer look at the Jones, shedding light on how he rose to power and why his followers met such a horrific end.

    Raven Review

    Raven (2009) recounts the harrowing story of Jim Jones and the People's Temple, a religious cult that ended in tragedy. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With meticulous research and firsthand accounts, it provides a comprehensive understanding of the events leading up to the Jonestown massacre.
    • By exploring the psychological manipulation and charismatic leadership of Jim Jones, the book delves into the dark side of human nature and the power of belief.
    • Through its gripping narrative and chilling revelations, Raven exposes the vulnerability of human beings and serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of blind devotion.

    Who should read Raven?

    • People interested in mass psychology
    • Cult fanatics
    • True-crime enthusiasts

    About the Author

    Tim Reiterman is an award-winning journalist who spent over a year at Jonestown as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He was present when a US Congressman, three reporters and a defector from the Peoples Temple were killed before the group’s mass suicide. He also worked as a writer and editor for the Los Angeles Times during its prize-winning coverage of the Los Angeles riots. He is a teacher at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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    Raven FAQs 

    What is the main message of Raven?

    Raven explores the dark history of the Jonestown massacre and delves into the factors that led to its tragic outcome.

    How long does it take to read Raven?

    The reading time for Raven can vary, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Raven a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Raven is an insightful and gripping book that sheds light on a defining moment in history. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Raven?

    Raven is written by Tim Reiterman with John Jacobs.

    What to read after Raven?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Raven, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson
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