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 story of Jonestown starts out with hope and faith and descends into horror and nightmare. I can't begin to imagine what it was like for those who no longer blindly believed and wanted to leave. The true example of brainwashing.
I fill my 2-hour commute per day with non-fiction, classics, historical fiction and an occasional contemporary fiction.
This really isn't a bad book, but something about it just bothered me. If it hadn't begun with claims that this was all never-before-available information, I probably wouldn't have minded. The author writes in a style that assigns emotions, conclusions, etc. to the people she is telling the story about. It came across as being kind of "gossipy" or presumptuous to me. She never states that she actually interviewed these people to the extent that she can say what they were thinking or why they made the decisions they made. The story does get told, and it is interesting to hear the journey of these specific followers, but it left me wondering how she reached some of the conclusions she reached. It may deserve a rating higher than three, but because I liked other (first person) accounts about Jonestown better, that is where I placed it.
Each story was interesting the first time it was told. The second time around, it was okay. The third and fourth and fifth and on and on it got ridiculous. But then there would be a little snippet of a new story that kept me listening. I can't believe I made it through the whole thing.
I was left devastated by this book. The writing is excellent and the story well read ..... but it is so incredibly sad.
It also changed my opinion about a situation which I would previously have shrugged off as stupidity.
This book does a good job of telling the Jonestown story from the perspective of some of Jim Jones' followers. I can see the attraction of the People's Temple. It provided a caring family and community for a lot of people who needed that. I'm left wondering what would have happened if Jones wasn't a drug-abusing mental case. Could the community have thrived? I suppose it would have eventually broken down, as other utopian societies have fallen apart.
While the book delves deeply into the personal stories of several families who survived, and does a good job of shedding light on what motivated them to follow Jones, I'm left wanting to know more about the movement's leaders. It's clear Jones was insane. But why did so many people support him and enforce his cruel policies?
More diabolical than Jones was Dr. Schacht, the doctor who concocted the deadly cocktail that killed more than 900 men, women and children in the Guyanese jungle. The book has a lot of information about him.
Avid reader of history, biography, and true crime.
This is the fascinating tale of an arch (and eventually insane) manipulator and the trusting and adoring people who followed him to their eventual death. The author recounts the stories of a number of individuals who gave up everything for Jones and his 'promised land' and these stories add immediacy and poignancy to the telling. We also learn about some who left, and some who stayed and survived. All of these stories give some idea of the way people became ensnared in Jones's net and went, willingly or otherwise, to their death. The various strands of the story are beautifully brought together and the reader's interest is maintained from beginning to end. One can only wonder at those whose faith in Jones did not waver in light of his cruelty to both adults and children, his self-confessed adultery with both men and women, and his increasingly bizarre pronouncements. Robin Miles' narration is perfect: the voice, pace, expression are all spot on for this compelling story.
avoiding road rage one book at a time...
This book is exceptionally written. I decided to buy it because I loved Julia's book Jesus Land. The staggeringly confounding story of Jonestown needed someone like Julia - her exhaustive attention detail and ability to create imagery with words. She combed through insurmountable records and interviewed people involved to wholly retell this haunting story. It is impeccably told, perfectly narrated and extremely overwhelming. Jim Jones was a diabolical maniac that somehow convinced his followers of imaginary conspiracies, manipulated their beliefs, chopped away at their confidence and turned them into fearful sheep... he trapped them and they felt there was no where to turn. I still cannot believe this actually happened. People need to hear this story and this is the perfect place to learn. I will remember Hyacinth Thrash and her unyielding determination for the rest of my life. Amazing job, Julia Scheeres!
Talking about truth being stranger then fiction. Jim Jones was certainly a control freak with a huge dose of paranoia fueled by ramped drug use that warped his mind. The sad stories of the thousand followers who were brain washed and drug kicking and screaming to their deaths is an eye opening wake up call of what horrors propaganda and the greed of power can lead to.
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