In 1954, a past or 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 U.S. 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 the Author
Julia Scheeres is the author of New York Times bestselling memoir Jesus Land. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two daughters.
Praise for A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown…
"Riveting...You will not be able to look away. " --The San Francisco Chronicle
"Julia Scheeres's book sheds startling new light on this murky, mini-chapter of contemporary history....the narrative is [a] compelling...psychological mystery." --The Wall Street Journal
"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, starred review
"Jonestown has become a grim metaphor for blind obedience—for fanaticism without regard to consequences. In the aptly titled A Thousand Lives, Julia Scheeres captures the humanity within this terrible story, vividly depicting individuals trapped in a vortex of hope and fear, faith and loss of faith, not to mention the changes sweeping America in the 1960s and '70s. She makes their journeys to that unfathomable tragedy all too real; what was truly incredible, she shows, was the escape from death by a tiny handful of survivors. Drawing on a mountain of sources compiled and recently released by the FBI, she changes forever the way we think about this dark chapter of our history." —T.J. Stiles, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
"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 Thousand Lives is a] well-written, disturbing tale of faith and evil." --Kirkus
"For those who can picture only the gory end of Jonestown, Julia Scheeres offers a heartbreaking and often inspiring glimpse of what might have been. Her masterfully told and exhaustively researched A Thousand Lives should stand not only as the definitive word on Jones’ horrific machinations, but on the utopian dreams of a bygone generation. A worthy follow-up to her superb memoir, Jesus Land." --Tom Barbash, author of On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9/11: A Story of Loss and Renewal
"How do you tell a new story about Jim Jones and his followers, when everyone knows how it ends? ...Julia Scheeres’ riveting A Thousand Lives gives us reason to look again. " --Miami Herald
“The definitive book on Jonestown and the Danse Macabre of suicide and murder orchestrated by mad Jim Jones. Julia Scheeres takes us by the hand and leads us gently, inexorably, into the darkness.” –Tim Cahill, author of Lost in My Own Backyard
"Julia Scheeres' A Thousand Lives... tells the tragic tale of Jonestown -- in its way, a peculiarly American apocalypse." --L.A. Times
"The first solid history of the Temple...less a warning about the dangers of religosity than a clear headed chronology." --San Francisco magazine