Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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

Title:  A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown 
Author:  Julia Scheeres
Genre:  Non-fiction
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Format/Pages: NetGalley/Kindle
Release Date: 10/11/2011

Julia Scheeres, a former resident of a religious rehabilitation camp in the Dominican Republic, utilizes diaries, letters and tapes, along with survivor interviews to tell the story of the followers of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. Jones led his church into the jungles of Guyana with a dream to create a utopian society. Instead, he pulled his followers into his paranoid, insane world, eventually bringing about the mass murder/suicide of the men, women and children living in Jonestown. A Thousand Lives chronicles the rise and fall of Jones and his church.

A Thousand Lives is a book that completely astonished me. The lengths a man like Jones would go to in order to establish himself as a powerful religious figure astounded me.  The fact that someone like Jones would exploit and manipulate those who trusted him in the ways this man did quite literally makes me sick to my stomach.  Also, the complete lack of responsibility and inaction of the governments involved is practically implausible. Once it became obvious that Jones had become a drug-addled lunatic keeping his followers sequestered in a foreign country it was too late to save his doomed followers. Scheeres does a remarkable job of helping the reader understand why people followed Jones. She thoroughly explains the types of lives and the desperation his followers felt; the need to belong, the church’s help with those who were drug addicts, single mothers or homeless. Jones idealistic “everyone is equal” sermons appealed to many, many people, drawing believers to him in droves. Jones took this desperation and exploited it and manipulated it to serve his own sick needs.

While I found A Thousand Lives fascinating, it at times was a difficult read. Not because of its content matter, but rather its lack of continuity. It seemed to jump around in the timeline of the years leading to Jonestown’s final days, which made it a bit difficult to follow along. The book was a bit disjointed and the huge list of people involved in the church and its story could get very confusing. Once everyone had arrived in Guyana and the book focused on that time period, I was able to follow along a bit better. That being said, A Thousand Lives was a fascinating read. It was a frightening look at the life and death of those who thought they had found a place to be accepted, but instead found death.

I will be asking my daughters to read this book. I think it is important for them to understand how desperate people can be manipulated by someone who seems like a good person. 

1 comment:

  1. Great review! It's so crazy what one man can make a whole group of people do. This subject fascinates me! I will have to move this up on my to-read list!


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