A Thousand Lives (eBook)
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 bestselling 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’s 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.
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…
"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