A Thousand Lives

  • by Julia Scheeres
  • Narrated by Robin Miles
  • 10 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

They left America for the jungles of Guyana to start a better life. Yet what started as a Utopian dream soon devolved into a terrifying work camp run by a madman, ending in the mass murder-suicide of 914 members in November 1978.
In A Thousand Lives, the New York Times best-selling memoirist Julia Scheeres traces the fates of five individuals who followed Jim Jones to South America as they struggled to first build their paradise, and then survive it. Each went for different reasons - some were drawn to Jones for his progressive attitudes towards racial equality, others were dazzled by his claims to be a faith healer. But once in Guyana, Jones' drug addiction, mental decay, and sexual depredations quickly eroded the idealistic community.
For this groundbreaking book, Scheeres examined more than 50,000 pages of newly released documents that the FBI collected from the camp after the massacre - including diaries, crop reports, and letters that were never sent home - as well as hundreds of audiotapes of Jones addressing his group.
Scheeres's own experience at a religious boot camp in the Dominican Republic, detailed in her unforgettable debut memoir Jesus Land, gives her unique insight into this chilling tale.
Haunting and vividly written, A Thousand Lives is a story of blind loyalty and daring escapes, of corrupted ideals and senseless, searing loss.


What the Critics Say

"Chilling and heart-wrenching, this is a brilliant testament to Jones's victims, so many of whom were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time." (Publisher's Weekly)
"Scheeres shows great compassion and journalistic skill in reconstructing Jonestown’s last months and the lives of many Temple members (including a few survivors).... [A] well-written, disturbing tale of faith and evil." (Kirkus)
"Julia Scheeres' A Thousand Lives... tells the tragic tale of Jonestown - in its way, a peculiarly American apocalypse." (Los Angeles Times)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


I began reading true crime because I wanted to know the story behind the sound bite headlines. This book delivers that and more. To listen is to watch something that began as a positive turn slowly into a horror.
I never knew or heard about the positive beginnings, or about the courage of so many who were involved...
Not for the faint of heart, the volience described is gut wrenching. Like reading about the Titanic, one wants to somehow rush in and re-write history and change the ending.
I'll never forget it, or the people I "met" while reading this.
This is a chapter in history that must not be forgotten, it has so much to teach us all.
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- Rachel "I own a small shop selling custom/costume Jewelry. I love to listen to audio books while I create jewelry. I love all animals and get very upset when they aren't treated well, even in fiction."

Experiencing a New Emotion at the End of a Book

What are the typical responses you feel after finishing a book? If you are like me you have had awe or happiness after finishing an uplifting story, engagement after an informative one, and after a difficult or boring one a sense of relief for getting to the end.

This is the first time I have felt extreme anger as the "One Thousand Lives" story wound down. On finishing the tale at midnight, my state of mind was set to fuming for an hour and sleep eluded me.

Jim Jones was a charlatan and a liar. Through trickery and manipulation he was able to distort many people’s noble aspirations into a grisly society. My heart went out to those who started to realize the truth about Jones. They were trapped in an isolated community by a majority of blind acolytes. Although we all know the ending of this story of one thousand lives where over 200 innocent children were murdered in Jonestown, the author skillfully fills in the details with important firsthand information.

It is ironic that the biggest lesson from this riveting book was hung above Jim Jones throne on that fateful day. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it". So a banner of wisdom participated in an orgy of stupidity by some intelligent people.

Still, I am convinced that the majority of listeners will take the appropriate lessons away from this highly recommended read.
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- Russell

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-13-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios