They left America for the jungles of Guyana to start a better life. Yet what started as a Utopian dream soon devolved into a terrifying work camp run by a madman, ending in the mass murder-suicide of 914 members in November 1978.
In A Thousand Lives, the New York Times best-selling memoirist Julia Scheeres traces the fates of five individuals who followed Jim Jones to South America as they struggled to first build their paradise, and then survive it. Each went for different reasons - some were drawn to Jones for his progressive attitudes towards racial equality, others were dazzled by his claims to be a faith healer. But once in Guyana, Jones' drug addiction, mental decay, and sexual depredations quickly eroded the idealistic community.
For this groundbreaking book, Scheeres examined more than 50,000 pages of newly released documents that the FBI collected from the camp after the massacre - including diaries, crop reports, and letters that were never sent home - as well as hundreds of audiotapes of Jones addressing his group.
Scheeres's own experience at a religious boot camp in the Dominican Republic, detailed in her unforgettable debut memoir Jesus Land, gives her unique insight into this chilling tale.
Haunting and vividly written, A Thousand Lives is a story of blind loyalty and daring escapes, of corrupted ideals and senseless, searing loss.
©2011 Julia Scheeres (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Chilling and heart-wrenching, this is a brilliant testament to Jones's victims, so many of whom were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time." (Publisher's Weekly)
"Scheeres shows great compassion and journalistic skill in reconstructing Jonestown’s last months and the lives of many Temple members (including a few survivors).... [A] well-written, disturbing tale of faith and evil." (Kirkus)
"Julia Scheeres' A Thousand Lives... tells the tragic tale of Jonestown - in its way, a peculiarly American apocalypse." (Los Angeles Times)
What are the typical responses you feel after finishing a book? If you are like me you have had awe or happiness after finishing an uplifting story, engagement after an informative one, and after a difficult or boring one a sense of relief for getting to the end.
This is the first time I have felt extreme anger as the "One Thousand Lives" story wound down. On finishing the tale at midnight, my state of mind was set to fuming for an hour and sleep eluded me.
Jim Jones was a charlatan and a liar. Through trickery and manipulation he was able to distort many people’s noble aspirations into a grisly society. My heart went out to those who started to realize the truth about Jones. They were trapped in an isolated community by a majority of blind acolytes. Although we all know the ending of this story of one thousand lives where over 200 innocent children were murdered in Jonestown, the author skillfully fills in the details with important firsthand information.
It is ironic that the biggest lesson from this riveting book was hung above Jim Jones throne on that fateful day. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it". So a banner of wisdom participated in an orgy of stupidity by some intelligent people.
Still, I am convinced that the majority of listeners will take the appropriate lessons away from this highly recommended read.
I own a small shop selling custom/costume Jewelry. I love to listen to audio books while I create jewelry. I love all animals and get very upset when they aren't treated well, even in fiction.
I began reading true crime because I wanted to know the story behind the sound bite headlines. This book delivers that and more. To listen is to watch something that began as a positive turn slowly into a horror.
I never knew or heard about the positive beginnings, or about the courage of so many who were involved...
Not for the faint of heart, the volience described is gut wrenching. Like reading about the Titanic, one wants to somehow rush in and re-write history and change the ending.
I'll never forget it, or the people I "met" while reading this.
This is a chapter in history that must not be forgotten, it has so much to teach us all.
No. The subject is distressing.
Tommy Bogue. The independent spirit that just can't be repressed, terrified or tortured away. Went on to become a positive leader.
The murder of the children. I wanted to put my fist through the car window.
I had only seen a 1/2 hr documentary and heard the pop-culture derivations. I had long had an apetite for a deeper look at this descent into madness. This book is a meditation on the gradual corruption of trust to the furthest extreme. I am grateful for the narrator's approach, not trying to 'act' the voices and statements of Jones, but keeping a double narrative distance (female, and unemotive) from a terrible person and subject.
Lover of ideas who feels no guilt at all about her pleasures.
I was a teen when this happened. I remember the surreal Newsweek cover on our coffee table at home. I thought I had a fairly clear idea of the story, but this book provides many new details. Potential readers should be advised that the events, while interesting, are extremely depressing.
You might wonder what I was expecting, given that I knew the outcome. I can only say that I wasn't expecting such long and graphic descriptions of horrific child abuse. That part of the puzzle I either didn't know before, or had forgotten. It's awful.
And the rest is hardly cheerful.
The book, on the other hand is extremely well done and well read. The author focuses on a few specific members of the People's Temple, shaping the book through them to good effect. The narrator finds the right tone.
If you can stand it, you'll admire it - I'm sure.
If not for the fact that it is a true story you would never believe this haunting tale. The horror of it belies belief but we all know these events did take place. This book allows you to live inside this cult and see it from their perspective. It follows the stories of several people and how they came to be part of this ordeal. It is horror at it's most evil, yet told in a dignified and intelligent way. No sensationalism here, just the facts in a calm, calculated manner. This book will stay with you long after you are finished and perhaps you to will give your children an extra hug at night all the while sparing a thought for the hundreds of murdered Jonestown children.
Noone sets out to join a cult. These people dreamed of a better life and were mislead and lied to until it was too late to turn back. How could it go so wrong? This book reminded me of "Lord of the flies". Of how in the right inviroment we can all turn into brutal savages.
Because this is a true story it would be hard to compare it to fiction. If this was fiction I don't think it would be believable.
Helter Skelter. Another true story one would wish was a figment of someone's imagination.
The entire book moved me.
I was in my teens when the horrors occurred in Jonestown. I remember the headlines but never realized the depths of his (Jones's) depravity. I had always assumed the murder/suicides had been spur of the moment. It was not until I listened to this that I found out he was planning this long before he moved his church group to Guyana, lying to his followers the entire time and forcing earlier followers to lie so more would come. I hope this is never forgotten.
I would not listen to it again, but not because it was bad, simply because it was very difficult to listen to the stories, such a brutal end to so many lives. I am glad that I listened to it, it gave me a greater understanding in to an organization that I had dismissed as a bunch of crazed cult members, to actually having understanding and empathy for those involved
How the church was formed in the beginning on what seemed to be true equality for all races, something unheard of in the late 60's and early 70's in secular culture. The idea sounded exciting and enticing during that time. Unfortunately things turned out to be far from equal.
I had a lot of empathy for the young children and elderly as their plight and hopelessness was described, especially as they tried their best to find happiness in the mundane activities and under the oppression of Jim Jones.
The final murders
This audiobook seriously impacted me. The story stayed with me very strongly for over a week after I read it in a mere two days. Could not put it down after I started.
Am nearing 84, have 3 children, 5 grandchildren and 1 half Japanese great grandson all delightful. Enjoy listening & reading
It was hard to rate this title overall for the following reasons.
Having read of this tragic occurrence at the time, it was with a feeling of trepidation but also curiosity that I downloaded this book. I cannot recommend it as it was indeed harrowing to hear the facts from the few survivors and tapes of this supposed 'new life' ending in such horror.
However, I must commend the author and narrator. The story was delivered eloquently by both leaving me with a shattering disbelief that one man could gain so much power then destroy his believers with such cruelty regardless of his addled brain.
I do feel that the book should be compulsory reading/listening to applicants wishing to join any cult.
incredible and hard to believe it happened
It is hard to pick only one character
No, I have not listened to any other performances
Yes, totally- one does not want to forget any of the characters
I could not put it down!!!
Author of Cutting Teeth, a novel (St. Martin's Press, 2014)
overall, a wonderful listen. skillfully researched and written. i admire the author's ability to capture this world and its bizarre characters with clarity and compassion.
A very sinister often jaw droppingly chilling story that has obviously been incredibly well researched. I mainly listen to audio books whilst in the car this one in particular seems to have made me drive slower and regret a journeys end - it is that compelling. A credit to Julia Scheeres and Robin Miles who does a great job of narrating.
Despite a bit of a slow start this never really stopped moving me.
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