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A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown | [Julia Scheeres]

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

"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 Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (687 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 02-12-13
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 02-12-13 Member Since 2015

    Business owner , philanthropist.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    81
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    "Very interesting and well read."

    Very even handed. Could happen again. Good to read if you are in any organization.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Opal Columbus, OH United States 01-27-13
    Opal Columbus, OH United States 01-27-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Frightening real-life story"
    Would you listen to A Thousand Lives again? Why?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I can't say I had a 'favorite' character, but there were many interesting people and stories in this book.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    "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.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    janateach Georgia 01-05-13
    janateach Georgia 01-05-13 Member Since 2012

    janateach

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    15
    10
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    Story
    "Heavy stuff."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Yes, if they are interested in Jim Jones this feels to be the definitive book.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    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.


    What does Robin Miles bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brighid Saanichton, BC, Canada 01-02-13
    Brighid Saanichton, BC, Canada 01-02-13 Member Since 2012

    Defender of fiction!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Quite dry"
    Would you try another book from Julia Scheeres and/or Robin Miles?

    Maybe


    What could Julia Scheeres have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Nothing that I can think of. I just think the subject matter lends itself to reader anger and disgust.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Robin Miles’s performances?

    The reader was ok.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry San Francisco, CA, United States 11-16-12
    Terry San Francisco, CA, United States 11-16-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sad, Dark, Fascinating"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Georgette 10-08-12
    Georgette 10-08-12 Member Since 2015
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    "A very Intriguing and gripping story."
    If you could sum up A Thousand Lives in three words, what would they be?

    Worse than Hitler


    What did you like best about this story?

    The author telling the story from the point of view of the victims.


    Have you listened to any of Robin Miles’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Poisoning and murdering of the babies and children.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ricketsj 10-05-12
    ricketsj 10-05-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Difficult but engrossing."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AP pa 09-25-12
    AP pa 09-25-12 Member Since 2015

    Ann

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "5 stars all around!"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jo jo 09-10-12
    jo jo 09-10-12
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    71
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    "understanding Jonestown"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Thousand Lives to be better than the print version?

    this is a story better listened to than read. more understandable with a better flow and much more gripping.


    What other book might you compare A Thousand Lives to and why?

    I would compare this book to Into to the Wild


    What does Robin Miles bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    the author does a wonderful job on background so you begin to understand how this could have happened


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Just like Us


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Graeme Sydney, Australia 09-06-12
    Graeme Sydney, Australia 09-06-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The most disturbing book I have ever listened to."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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