A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown

Paperback | November 13, 2012

byJulia Scheeres

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“A gripping account of how decent people can be taken in by a charismatic and crazed tyrant” (The New York Times Book Review).

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.

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From the Publisher

“A gripping account of how decent people can be taken in by a charismatic and crazed tyrant” (The New York Times Book Review).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...

Julia Scheeres is the author of New York Times bestselling memoir Jesus Land. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two daughters.

other books by Julia Scheeres

Jesus Land: A Memoir
Jesus Land: A Memoir

Kobo ebook|Mar 1 2009

$13.09 online$16.99list price(save 22%)
Jesus Land: A Memoir
Jesus Land: A Memoir

Kobo ebook|Oct 30 2012

$13.89 online$17.99list price(save 22%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 0.8 inPublished:November 13, 2012Publisher:Free PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1416596402

ISBN - 13:9781416596400

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well researched & documented Probably the best account of the Jonestown tragedy that I have ever read. The story is told with great sensitivity on the part of the author for the people who were unfortunately swayed by the power of Jim Jones and his entourage. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read an accurate and indepth narrative of the Jonestown tragedy.
Date published: 2015-03-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown his book is enlightening; gaining a better understanding of the why's and the how's of why members overlooked the obvious lies and on going deceptions of Jim Jones gives us a somewhat clearer sense of why some followed him for so long
Date published: 2015-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I would consider myself pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the People's Temple & Jonestown. I have read various books, documentaries and immersed myself into everything Jonestown but I have to say that this book; A Thousand Lives was, for me, the most riveting. This book provides a deep insight into how various members, from all walks of life were drawn to what started out as a wonderful and hopeful family / church and takes you through a guided tour of the slow but steady descent into one man's all encompassing madness, which ultimately destroyed the dream and more importantly; the members. This book is enlightening; gaining a better understanding of the why's and the how's of why members overlooked the obvious lies and on going deceptions of Jim Jones gives us a somewhat clearer sense of why some followed him for so long...it wasn't just about Jim; for some it wasn't about Jim at all - it was the other members, the love, the acceptance and peace that they brought to each other.
Date published: 2011-11-03

Extra Content

Read from the Book

A Thousand Lives Introduction Had I walked by 1859 Geary Boulevard in San Francisco when Peoples Temple was in full swing, I certainly would have been drawn to the doorway. I grew up in a conservative Christian family with an adopted black brother; race and religion were the dominant themes of my childhood. In our small Indiana town, David and I often felt self-conscious walking down the street together. Strangers scowled at us, and sometimes called us names. I wrote about the challenges of our relationship in my memoir, Jesus Land. Suffice it to say, David and I would have been thrilled and amazed by Peoples Temple, a church where blacks and whites worshipped side by side, the preacher taught social justice instead of damnation, and the gospel choir transported the congregation to a loftier realm. We longed for such a place. Unfortunately, the laudable aspects of Peoples Temple have been forgotten in the horrifying wake of Jonestown. I stumbled onto writing this book by accident. I was writing a satirical novel about a charismatic preacher who takes over a fictional Indiana town, when I remembered Jim Jones was from Indiana, and Googled him. I learned that the FBI had released fifty thousand pages of documents, including diaries, meeting notes, and crop reports, as well as one thousand audiotapes that agents found in Jonestown after the massacre, and that no one had used this material to write a comprehensive history of the doomed community. Once I started digging through the files, I couldn’t tear myself away. It was easy to set my novel aside. I believe that true stories are more powerful, in a meaningful, existential way, than made-up ones. Learning about other people’s lives somehow puts one’s own life in sharper relief. Aside from race and religion, there were other elements of the Peoples Temple story that resonated with me. When David and I were teenagers, our parents sent us to a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic that had some uncanny parallels with Jonestown. I could empathize with the residents’ sense of isolation and desperation. You won’t find the word cult in this book, unless I’m directly citing a source that uses the word. My aim here is to help readers understand the reasons that people were drawn to Jim Jones and his church, and how so many of them ended up dying in a mass-murder suicide on November 18, 1978. The word cult only discourages intellectual curiosity and empathy. As one survivor told me, nobody joins a cult. To date, the Jonestown canon has veered between sensational media accounts and narrow academic studies. In this book, I endeavor to tell the Jonestown story on a grander, more human, scale. Julia Scheeres Berkeley, California, March 24, 2011

Editorial Reviews

"The first solid history of the Temple...less a warning about the dangers of religosity than a clear headed chronology." --San Francisco magazine