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)
The author has thoroughly documented the horrible story of Jonestown in a manner that enables us to see what happened, and how it happened. She gives us enough information that we can understand how people were suckered into this cult by what appeared to be a progressive, spiritual leader, and then how they were kept in the cult by a combination of false promises, lies and misinformation, and mental and physical coercion. We learn that many within the cult realized that things were not right, but Jones was so successful in establishing control that these people were unable to escape from the seemingly open settlement.
At times, the book became tedious simply because the story is so depressing. As one who believes in the importance of faith in God and the necessity for community expressions of faith, I was troubled by the thought that persons initially acting out of a similar faith found themselves trapped in a situation where it may not have been possible to think independently. Recognizing that many religious leaders do not encourage independent thought, this serves as a reminder of the abuse of faith.
But, of all the individual tragedies presented in this book, it is the realization that Jim Jones partially accomplished the goal of infamy. Oh, that we could just delete his name from human history (along with Hitler and a few other tyrants), but unfortunately it is necessary for us to listen to this story, and to mention those names again and again, in order to learn the lessons that we need to recognize.
SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!
I thought this was a Four Star Book until I listened to the Jim Jones tape right after this. Now THERE was the story I thought I'd be getting from "A Thousand Lives." "A Thousand Lives" is a brilliant chronicle of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and a few of its congregants, but by no means does it go into that last fateful day. The last hours are touched upon, and it's heartbreaking when you realize who makes it, and who doesn't, but, really, it's not gone into deeply. I don't know if Ms. Scheeres thought it might be morbid? Perhaps she thought it might be, what? Too soon? Too disrespectful to the families?
After listening to the Jim Jones tape, which is available on Audible, but could probably be found anywhere on the internet, I don't think it would be disrespectful. I simply think it's the real human drama, real people making horrifying choices, saying their good-byes, and yes, screaming and crying, all while a doped-up madman chastises them.
I was twelve years old when this happened. Couldn't understand how something like this could happen. "A Thousand Lives" does make me understand WHY and HOW it could happen, but the tape makes me care.
Maybe not entirely credit worthy, but certainly worth a Daily Deal, or a sale. Besides, Robin Miles as Jim Jones at the end there is downright creepy!
So much to learn, and so little time to sit down and read. Thanks Audible.
The reason I prefer nonfiction to fiction is that I can learn something as I listen. In A Thousand Lives, the author did a fantastic job of telling the story in a way that made it super engaging. At times it was hard for me to turn it off and return to work.
In the same way I loved Helter Skelter, I just couldn't get over the way a guy could garner that much power and obedience from all his followers. I actually purchased this book because I knew I could use elements of it as I talk with my own kids about peer pressure, and standing up for what's right no matter what the crowd is doing. It worked too, my kids were amazed peer pressure could go that far.
When I finished this book I felt like I was now an expert on Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre. I enjoyed every minute of the book, and am now smarter for having "read" it.
Audio Addict! Usually listening to History these days. Love Will Durant most of all authors!
Upon finishing this book, I couldn't understand why I didn't already know more about this shocking tragedy. I realize that the suicides occurred before I was born (Im 33) , but so did the Charles Manson murders- and I grew up knowing all about that story and its victims. Anyway...
Knowing just a little about this story, I was transfixed with this book. It is so well written and well read! Kudos to the author for the ability to be empathetic, but also straightforward and cutting when necessary. The reader definitely gets to make up his own mind about various individuals involved, i.e. the members who were forced to leave family including their children behind when escaping.
The thing that was most surprising to me is that Jonestown was a movement for socialism, and not actually a religious cult. Jones started as a religious minister, but dropped all pretense of religion after a while. He forbade bibles and told the group that he was god. His message was not religious or spiritual, but economical. They killed themselves for socialism! ?????
I was shocked and disgusted after listening to a book about Scientology recently. Compared to Jonestown, Scientology barely registers on the radar! I have so much trouble understanding individuals who fall prey to men like Jim Jones or L Ron Hubbard. Both men had similar personality types, marked by the ability to charm and move people, and also by a growing and bizarre paranoia and isolation. Though I must add that Jones was just a really bad man, through and through. Why do people get caught up in cults? There was an obvious point where Jones had gone nuts, and yet these people followed him still. For years, the members lived in squalor and starved. Many lived in fear, and rightly so.
The final chapter of the saga, the circumstances before the mass suicide, was the most shocking. I knew about the suicides and forced suicides, but not about the slaughter of nonmembers.
I haven't read a more interesting book in a long time. I will definitely read more by Julia Scheeres. Also the narrator Robin Miles was excellent.
I've often wondered how people get themselves sucked into a cult situation and trapped there. After all, it would make sense to simply walk out! Or so I thought. Now I have a better understanding, thanks to Scheeres' well written and documented book.
These followers were people of faith, hope, trust and goodness. Their frame of mind didn't include deceit, betrayal, and evil. Jones, however, was a superb and well-practiced con-man with a host of evil attritubes. They simply weren't able to understand or withstand his malevolence.
Psychopaths prey on people's weaknesses, and use these to their own advantage, but most focus specifically on one or two life areas. Jones, however, pulled no punches. He attacked relentlessly on all fronts: religion, relationships, race, home and security, finances, etc. He used every possible soft spot to annihilate his victims' independence, personal power, and ultimately even their lives.
This is true evil.
An interesting and insightful read, well narrated.
I'm a bear that likes honey, climbing trees, stealing picnic baskets and listening to audiobooks.
Don't join cults.
The incredible amount of detail that the author puts into her telling of the Jonestown story. She did a good job of sorting through the hype and the sensationalism and painting a deeper, more horrifying story of slow and relentless brainwashing, isolation and madness.
Favorite is the wrong word. But the description of the cult's final decision to take the Kool Aid was gripping and unforgettable.
Highly recommended, both as a historical document and as a social examination of the allure and hypnotic pull of cult life.
I LOVE Audible
I very much enjoyed this book. I dont normally listen to stories other than thriller/suspense (the more vampires the better) books, but I decided to broaden my horizons since I was feeling a bit bored.
This book was a very interesting listen, I knew the story of 'drink the kool-aid' but never understood or knew the story before the mass suicide.
If you are looking for a riveting story that keeps you interested by changing the perspective narrator (you hear stories from the perspective of many different survivors and journal entries of different members), this is a good one.
I thought this was a wonderful composition! The detail that is revealed in the book is unbelievable and makes you question why it was not made public knowledge from day one. How sad to know the amount of opportunity our government had to put a stop to this. I highly recommend. I purchased this becuase I know someone who was present to stop it on the day of the massacre. Wow, the people you meet and what they bring to your life.
The author related the experiences of a variety of people.. and each one could be you or someone you know. Its chilling to realize how they each took steps further into this nightmare.
The author says that this is not the story of anyone joining a
Hyacinth Thrash was an elderly survivor of this tragedy. She had joined the People's Temple over 20 years before, and witnessed the slow metamorphosis from church to cult of personality.
Each of these members reached a point when they were asked to do something that went against their instincts, morals, common sense. Stepping over that line led them irretrievably under the control of Jim Jones.
Whether you remember this event, or only heard of it recently, a must read, and a lesson for us all!
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