Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: A Thousand Lives

Title: A Thousand Lives
Author:  Julia Scheeres
Source:  Netgalley

Synopsis from Netgalley:
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 bestselling 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's drug addiction, mental decay, and sexual depredations quickly eroded the idealistic community.
My review:
I read Julia Scheeres' previous book Jesusland, and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to read this one.  I had heard of Jim Jones' group, but didn't know many of the details surrounding it.  This book was very well written and you could tell that a lot of time and research went into it.  The author consulted more than 50,000 pages of documents from the FBI about the group.  I really liked how the author started from the beginning of the group and didn't just focus on the actual group "suicide".  The fact that she did that allowed the reader to really see how the group and it's leader transformed from a safe place to one where people were afraid.  I also really liked that the book followed the stories of several individual members and how they became involved in the group.  This made the people seem more "real" to me, like I knew these people.  It's kind of weird to say that I loved this book based on it's subject, but I did.  I would definitely recommend this book to others and I will be sure to read other work by this author.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

**I received an electronic copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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