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.
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.
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'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!
Well documented, well written. Brings together, in a comprehensive way, all the details of this well-known story and gives an insight into how one person's mental illness can lead hundreds of others to their death.
Julia has done an excellent job in telling the Jim Jones nightmare in a clear and complete manner.
It is riveting listening, I was glad when I got to the end because it was emotionally draining.
There are many lessons to be learnt from this nighmare - but i am still not sure excactly what they are.
I am a committed Christian and found it highly disturbing that Jim Jones used the Gospel as a front to deceive so many. What Jim Jones did, is beyond psycological manipulation - it is in the realm of demonic posession.
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