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

Series: 25 untold stories

Traci Thomas of The Stacks Podcast</a> recommended this book on Episode 162 and Episode 212 of What Should I Read Next. Traci knows her nonfiction and says that this book is an excellent account of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church. A charismatic preacher, Jones drew people into his congregation with sermons on social justice. When his sermons grew darker, and his behavior more unpredictable, it got harder and harder for people to leave his community. When the U.S. government got involved, it was far too late. Julia Scheeres' haunting account focuses on the people who lived in Jonestown, based on declassified FBI documents, interviews, and rare video footage.

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About the Book

In 1954, a pastor 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 US 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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