Cults are fascinating. I think people look at cults like The People’s Temple and wonder why someone would join. Why would someone partake in a mass suicide? How could someone miss the writing on the wall. A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story Of Hope, Deception, And Survival At Jonestown by Julia Scheeres attempts to explain this and to humanize the members of The People’s Temple so we are empathetic towards the followers of Jim Jones.
A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres provides a complete portrait of The People’s Temple – from the early days of Jim Jones, his childhood and whatnot to the move from Indiana to California to Guyana all the way to the mass suicide and assassination of Congressman Ryan to the aftermath and what happened to the survivors. Basically Scheeres provides focus on several members and tells their stories to give the reader a well rounded picture. A Thousand Lives is a harrowing audiobook.
I can remember cringing and my heart speeding up in fear for the members of the People’s Temple. I had SO MUCH anxiety while listening to A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres but was riveted. For example, one part details how Jones (total creep FYI) would make people sign fake confessions to things like molesting their children and suicide pledges just to keep them in the temple and to prove loyalty. If people tried to defect Jones would use pledges against them. This is a terrifying subject matter and deeply disturbing. You need to be prepared if you decide to listen to the A Thousand Lives audiobook or read the book.
Sheeres does an excellent job of showing why people joined. The People’s Temple espoused progressive ideas involving race, poverty and class. Jonestown was supposed to be like a Utopia – with equality between everyone regardless of background. There were members who hoped Jones would heal them after seeing him heal others. People would join because their family and friends had joined. We say today, oh I’d never join a cult or get involved in anything like this – but given the turbulent time and people’s circumstances, maybe you would. Maybe you would join if this was where you found community and acceptance like the other members.
I feel like I’ve learned SO much about Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. I know that I will TRY not to say phrases like ‘drink the kool aid’ because of connotations – all these people dying is NOT something to laugh at and make light of. To me, the mark of great non fiction is seeking out more information afterward. I ended up googling a documentary and watching it within minutes of finishing A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres.
Robin Miles is the narrator of A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception And Survival at Jonestwon by Julia Scheeres. Robin Miles sounds like a college professor -take that as you will, for me it’s a good thing. She has an even cadence to her voice which makes the horrors of Jim Jones even more scary because she does not dramatize her words. I would say that Robin Miles’ uses sensitive narration for a sensitive subject. If you can stomach it, and I say that because for me, A Thousand Lives is a very, very hard book to read, A Thousand Lives is worth dipping your toes into nonfiction for. A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres narrated by Robin Miles is 10 hours and 53 minutes unabridged and published by Audible, inc.
Disclosure: Bought with my audible credit.