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Place Called Waco:
Anyone fascinated or horrified by the story of the Branch Davidian sect and the storming of their Waco, Texas, compound by law enforcement authorities in April 1993 will want to read David Thibodeau's compelling first-person account. Thibodeau, one of only nine Branch Davidian survivors of the attack (in which 74 people--including several children--were killed), begins by telling readers what brought him to Waco. We meet David Koresh as Thibodeau first met him: a fellow rock musician, an abused child from a troubled family who didn't finish high school and was fond of guns but loved to talk about the Bible. The memoir offers what appears to be an honest portrayal of life among the Branch Davidians, including the sham marriages in which men were expected to be celibate while Koresh had sex with most of the women--and girls as young as 12 years old. Thibodeau strongly denies other charges of child abuse within the community; children were punished and spanked, he says, but not beaten.
The second half of the book details the Branch Davidians' dealings with federal agents. In light of subsequent government admissions, including a partial recantation in 1999 of previous denials that the tear gas used in the assault could have been incendiary, Thibodeau's detailed account of the storming of the compound and the fire that followed is chilling. Why did people follow Koresh? As Thibodeau remembers an early conversation with one of his followers, previously a theology student in England, "He has the answers to my questions." But A Place Called Waco ends with more questions than answers. --Linda Killian [via]