Author: Julia Scheeres
Publisher: Free Press
Publish Date: October 11, 2011
Source: ARC from Publisher
Why You're Reading This Book:
- You want a gripping non-fiction book.
- You want a truth that's stranger than fiction.
From Goodreads.com: "A Thousand Lives is the story of Jonestown as it has never been told before. New York Times bestselling author Julia Scheeres drew from thousands of recently declassified FBI documents and audiotapes, as well as rare videos and interviews, to piece together an unprecedented and compelling history of the doomed camp, focusing on the people who lived there. Her own experiences at an oppressive reform school in the Dominican Republic, detailed in her unforgettable debut memoir Jesus Land, gave her unusual insight into this story.
The people who built Jonestown wanted to forge a better life for themselves and their children. They sought to create a truly egalitarian society. In South America, however, they found themselves trapped in Jonestown and cut off from the outside world as their leader goaded them toward committing “revolutionary suicide” and deprived them of food, sleep, and hope. Yet even as Jones resorted to lies and psychological warfare, Jonestown residents fought for their community, struggling to maintain their gardens, their school, their families, and their grip on reality.
Vividly written and impossible to forget, A Thousand Lives is a story of blind loyalty and daring escapes, of corrupted ideals and senseless, haunting loss."
My Two Cents:
I wasn't alive when Jonestown happened but I knew about it before I read this book. What I didn't understand before I read this book is how so many people could follow this crazy man because he seemed outwardly crazy. I just couldn't understand. Scheeres is a master in showing how much Jim Jones manipulated and almost brain washed his followers.
I didn't realize that Jones started his church out of a fight for civil rights. He believed that churches needed to end segregation and give all of their attendees equal treatment. Jones eventually started his own church based on social equality and socialism. To many of his followers, he seemed to be on the right path. On a road paved with good intentions there were also speed bumps, potholes, and sinkholes.
Jones promised that he could provide that equality that his followers wanted and that he could promise them eternal salvation. For those who believe him, they believe that he's their key to a better life. After moving his entire church from the midwest to one of the poorest areas in California, he is able to gain more of the trust of his people. It's scary how much power Jones had over the people. Scheeres goes through some of the stories of the different people that followed Jones to Jonestown. They all had their want of a better life and they trusted Jones to make it happen. By telling the story of Jonestown through the stories of the people, Scheeres pulls you in quickly and doesn't let you go.
I felt bad for the followers. Some of them didn't realize how in over their heads they were until the very end.
Bottom line: This is a frightening but gripping book.