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)
Business owner , philanthropist.
Very even handed. Could happen again. Good to read if you are in any organization.
I would probably not listen to this book again, simply because I rarely re-read a book. However, I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
I can't say I had a 'favorite' character, but there were many interesting people and stories in this book.
"Favorite" to me implies something positive. The most memorable scene is the by now infamous koolaid scene, and the very narrow escape of the few survivors. I had to listen to the entire thing, even though it meant being late for work.
The book made me both angry and sad - angry that trusting people could be so easily betrayed and destroyed, and sadness for the people who saw their dreams destroyed.
Yes, if they are interested in Jim Jones this feels to be the definitive book.
The background on how progressive the Joneses were really surprised me. The author's continued repeating of the many camp meetings got old but were important to understand what was happening in Jonestown.
Her empathy for the characters shone as she read about their desperate situations. It actually made it harder to digest because her voice made the atrocities sound so much worse than if this were just words on a page.
Defender of fiction!
Nothing that I can think of. I just think the subject matter lends itself to reader anger and disgust.
The reader was ok.
I was disgusted with the people (sheeple). It just goes to show that religion can make you an idiot by encouraging people to follow on faith instead of question and think.
All in all it wasn't a bad documentary. I just couldn't read to the end because I couldn't take the stupidity of the people.
I live in San Francisco and I kind of have a thing for San Francisco and its history. My office is about 1/4 mile from the old location of Jim Jones' People's Temple on Geary Street. So, I was excited to listen to this book - and the book does not disappoint. It seems to be really well researched, and it is a fascinating story. It is so dark that I was ready for it to end when it did. But it was also so interesting that I was compelled to do more research on Jonestown after listening. I highly recommend this audiobook.
Worse than Hitler
The author telling the story from the point of view of the victims.
Poisoning and murdering of the babies and children.
I feel like the narrator could have read the high points of the story with a little more emotion or urgency in her tone of voice.
I was already pretty knowledgeable about Jim Jones and People's Temple, and the Jonestown tragedy, and still learned an incredible amount from this thorough and compassionate portrait of the people of Jonestown. I very much liked the technique of jumping around via the perspectives of different survivors and the use of diaries and letters to document what people were thinking as the Promised Land turned into Heart of Darkness. Heartbreaking and horrifying as it is to listen to the transcripts of the bitter end, it is so important for people to understand that ALL of the children and MANY of the adults did not commit suicide, they were murdered.
Another thing that comes across, which is absent from so many accounts of People's Temple, is how it could have been (and at times was) the groundbreaking social justice experiment that the congregants wanted it to be. How sad that the very thing (Jim Jones) that brought them all together is the same thing that tore the dream to shreds because all he really wanted was power.
This story held my interest from beginning to end. Perhaps because the story is true. The author tells it well. The narrator held my interest also. I highly recommend this audiobook if you like history. Excellent!
this is a story better listened to than read. more understandable with a better flow and much more gripping.
I would compare this book to Into to the Wild
the author does a wonderful job on background so you begin to understand how this could have happened
Just like Us
This audiobook will lead you on a tour of humanity that could make you despair. How people were so astonishingly stupid (stupid may sound harsh, but as the tale of the people's temple unfolds, it's really the only conclusion I could come to) to fall for Jim
Jones and his lunacy is something that is impossible to understand.
The constant warning signs of danger, from the church's early days through to it's at times farcical time in Guyana is an indictment of both individuals and governmental gullibility and inaction.
Jim Jones and his closest confidantes were indeed evil people, but the knowledge that his evil and madness were always self evident makes this story such a profound tragedy.
I am still trying to make sense of this tragedy, where people willingly put aside reason and common sense to literally follow this lunatic to their deaths. So stark is the evidence of their stupidity, that I can't even find sympathy for these people - only horror that so many of them were willing to firstly deprive their children of a normal upbringing and then to lead those innocent children to their deaths.
At the end, to hear the tales of some of the survivors lives after Jonestown only reinforces your despair - to see some of them survive only to continue to make dumb life decisions just leaves you shaking your head.
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