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

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Synopsis

In 1954, a pastor named Jim Jones opened a church in Indianapolis called Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church. He was a charismatic preacher with idealistic beliefs, and he quickly filled his pews with an audience eager to hear his sermons on social justice. As Jones’s behavior became erratic and his message more ominous, his followers leaned on each other to recapture the sense of equality that had drawn them to his church. But even as the congregation thrived, Jones made it increasingly difficult for members to leave. By the time Jones moved his congregation to a remote jungle in Guyana and the US government began to investigate allegations of abuse and false imprisonment in Jonestown, it was too late.

A Thousand Lives is the story of Jonestown as it has never been told. New York Times bestselling author Julia Scheeres drew from tens of 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.

The people who built Jonestown wanted to forge a better life for themselves and their children. 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. 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.
 

About Julia Scheeres

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JULIA SCHEERES has a B.A. in Spanish and an M.A. in journalism from the University of Southern California. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times and Wired, and has twice been a finalist for journalism awards presented by the USC Annenberg School for Communication. She is also the author of A Thousand Lives. Scheeres lives in San Francisco, California.
 
Published October 11, 2011 by Free Press. 322 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Religion & Spirituality, Self Help. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Thousand Lives

Kirkus Reviews

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Scheeres (Jesus Land: A Memoir, 2005) notes that her personal experience at a Christian reform school made her empathetic to the luckless individuals who died at the Jonestown settlement in Guyana, since derided as cultists or worse: “My aim here is to help readers understand the reasons that peo...

Sep 18 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

The New York Times

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Julia Scheeres describes her new book, “A Thousand Lives,” as the “untold story” of Jonestown, the Peoples Temple settlement in the jungles of Guyana where on Nov. 18, 1978, the Rev.

Oct 07 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Publishers Weekly

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While researching a novel set in a cult environment, Scheeres (Jesus Land) discovered the 50,000 pages of documents released by the FBI about the mass-murder suicide at Jonestown.

Aug 29 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

The Wall Street Journal

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In 2008, just before the 30th anniversary of its infamous massacre, I traveled to Jonestown in Guyana, on South America's northeast coast.

Oct 07 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Book Reporter

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres The Expatsby Chris PavoneSo Pretty It Hurts: A Bailey Weggins Mysteryby Kate WhiteStay Closeby Harlan CobenPoison Flower: A Jane Whitefield Novelby Thomas PerryAnother Piece of My Heartb...

Oct 11 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Book Reporter

They were forced to sleep in crowded dorms, share primitive toilet and bathing facilities, and often were kept awake all night by Jones yelling at them through a loudspeaker about their sins, about the evil American government hounding them, and about the desirability of death (often accompanied ...

Oct 13 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Los Angeles Times

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The rural church community in Ukiah became the center of their lives, although Jones never got around to healing Hyacinth's bad hip.

Oct 23 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Slate

The Jonestown poisonings still loom large in national memory—for one thing, that’s where we got the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” (though packets of both Kool-Aid and a rival brand, Flavor Aid, were reportedly found at the scene.) However, relatively few people remember that Rep. Ryan was ki...

Nov 18 2013 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Gather Books

It’s interesting to see Jones as good and sincere and honest and then become the creep who lied to his followers and became more interested in his power over them than in improving their lives.

Nov 15 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Macleans

(Jonestown has, for example, been edited out of the myth of martyred San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, who cynically protected Jones’s Peoples Temple in exchange for its votes.) Mostly, the Jonestown deaths have been shifted into a foggy mental category of “cult suicide,” where degrees ...

Dec 07 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Boston.com

Call it Ozark grotesque: The people in Woodrell’s stories live in his native southern Missouri, near the Arkansas border, a hilly country where natural beauty coincides with a history of violence.

Oct 16 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Bookmarks Magazine

Brook Wilensky-Lanford NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars "[T]he story does bear retelling, not least for those too young to recall the shock that swept the world at the time, but also because Scheeres adds insights harvested from some 50,000 pages of letters, journals and other documents fou...

Oct 17 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

Large Print Reviews

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.

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Bookshelf Bombshells

Those who followed Jim Jones to the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in Guyana did not wake up one morning and consciously choose to venerate a man whose maniacal ego and rampant drug addiction led him to delude himself and his followers into believing his was the only righteous path — indeed,...

Feb 18 2012 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

The Christian Century

Working as a secretary in the late 1960s, Edith Roller watched as student sit-ins engulfed her office at San Francisco State College.

May 22 2012 | Read Full Review of A Thousand Lives: The Untold ...

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