A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown - Julia Scheeres This is a well-researched and docuemnted book detailing the lives of Jim Jones's followers. The narrative is based on 50,000 pages of documents (diaries, notes, etc) released by the FBI and seized from Jonestown. The author has a good voice and is able to convey both Jim Jones's persuasiveness, at least his persuasiveness in the beginning, and the entrapped feeling his followers must have felt. I knew of the Jonestown tragedy since I was a kid, but I had always thought it was a willing mass suicide. I was very wrong. Author Julia Scheeres tells the story of Jim Jones and his followers, beginning in Indiana, moving to California, to Brazil and then to Guyana. She tells of his drug addiction, his sexual infidelities and methods of controlling his followers via sex (both male and female), his physical abuse and threats perpetrated against his followers -- both adults and children (so so heartbreaking to read about), and of his entrapping and control of his followers. Through the pages of A Thousand Lives, Scheeres details individual followers' lives -- pieced together from diaries, eye witness accounts and letters. This book is not just a reporting, but an unfolding of a story with multiple people's points of view.I was surprised to learn that Jones had political ties, both in the US and in Guyana, which enabled him to maintain his operations and keep going. It is amazing, of course viewed in retrospect, that this political pressure he put on leaders in the US and in South America actually worked. After the massacre was over, one third of the people murdered at Jonestown were children (over 300 children). Jim Jones used threat and force to keep people in his church, to prevent them from leaving the grounds of his compound and to ultimately murder them. I won't detail how Jones controlled his followers -- but it is sad and horrific. I will never use the phrase "drink the kool-aid" again to mean someone who buys into a crazy idea. Ultimatley this book was very informative but (I hate to say it) entertaining. I listened to the audio version and am glad to have learned what I did about the tragic victims of Jonestown. It was heartbreaking to learn, however I still recommend this story.