A THOUSAND LIVES: THE UNTOLD STORY OF HOPE, DECEPTION, AND SURVIVAL AT JONESTOWN by Julia Scheeres surprised me. I thought the story of Jim Jones, his cult, and the mass murder-suicide (which, according to what is now known, was actually a massacre) that ultimately occurred was an old one, that nothing new could be said about it. Most of us know Jim Jones was a cult leader who lead his followers to a mass murder-suicide at Jonestown. But thereâ€™s so much more to know now, and that new information is related in this book.
First of all, A THOUSAND LIVES doesnâ€™t use the word â€œcult.â€ Why not? Scheeres says something like, no one practicing a religion thinks itâ€™s a cult.
Â Jones wasnâ€™t always a creep. His life reminds me of a long-time politicianâ€™s life. They start their careers as good and sincere and honest, but the power they have over othersâ€™ lives eventually goes to their heads and corrupts them. Itâ€™s interesting to see Jones as good and sincere and honest and then become the creep who lied to his followers and became more interested in his power over them than in improving their lives.
Â But Jones became more than a creep. He became a mad man and was far worse than we knew.
Â And the book contains so much more previously unknown information. But I donâ€™t want to give it away here; as some reviews will. Just believe there is more here for you to learn now.
Â Some of the information Scheeres divulges left me with more questions: how could so many adults, including several politicians and people in other positions of power, have been fooled by a monster? And how could so many of them do ANYTHING at his command?
Â I say â€œmonster,â€ and I know youâ€™ll agree with me that Jim Jones was after you read this. I remember what was said when the massacre happened. It wasnâ€™t called â€œmassacreâ€ then. Read this, and youâ€™ll see that it was.
Â Scheeres has gathered together this new information in a way that she can get more personal. She examines the lives of specific members of the cult, especially when they lived in Jonestown, Guyana. It was difficult to read sometimes but definitely more interesting than just a recitation of information. It even gets frightening as cult members try to defect and leave but canâ€™t. They were trapped. Were they also drugged? Were they hypnotized? Scheeres presents evidence that they were but says not.
Â If I were gathering together this information, I would have organized it differently. And I would have posed my questions someplace near the beginning and then tried to answer those questions.Â But what a job it must have been to sift through everything now available to her! So much disgusting information that Iâ€™m sure will make you see some aspect of the Jonestown massacre differently.
Â I won an ARC of this book through goodreads.comâ€™s First Reads program. This is an honest review.