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
From Library Journal
If the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) badly mishandled the events at Ruby Ridge in 1992, its handling of the Waco incident the next year was even worse. Thibodeau, one of the nine survivors of the siege at Waco, met David Koresh by chance at a Los Angeles music store and was invited to join his followers at Mount Carmel in Waco, TX. Thibodeau gives the reader an inside look at life at Mount Carmel, revealing, for instance, that Koresh had sex with most of the women there, including children as young as 14. When the ATF learned that weapons were stockpiled at Mount Carmel and that it was only a matter of time before Koresh would use them against the government, it joined the FBI in an attack that left 74 people dead. This book gives a rare glimpse of life at Mount Carmel and an account of how that attack contrasts with the "official" government version. With the renewed interest in this siege, this book is recommended for public libraries.AMichael Sawyer, Northwestern Regional Lib., Elkin, NC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.