Friday, November 18, 2011

A Thousand Lives

Wow. This was fascinating. I bought the audiobook, which was 11 hours long, and listened to it over two days. I couldn't stop listening to it. It was fascinating.

A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres is about Jim Jones and the massacre at Jonestown in 1978. Over 900 people were killed/committed suicide under the direction of Jones. An audio file of the last minutes survived and people can be heard fighting giving their children the poison while Jones and his leaders talked about how everything was fine and that they shouldn't worry. A number of people had injection marks, leading the medical examining team to believe that they were killed rather than had willingly taken the kool-aid. (This is where the term "drank the kool-aid" originates.)

Jones began his church in Indiana in the 1950s as a integrated, welcoming group, but increasingly became in to a cult. People followed Jones from Indiana to northern California to San Francisco and finally to Jonestown, Guyana in South America. Once in Jonestown, Jones descended into to a drug induced fantasy land and his followers suffered. To someone reading the book today, I think it's easy to say WTH about the people that followed Jones. But, the author talks about how it's easy for us to dismiss Jonestown while instead we should be examining how Jones was so successful at getting people to believe in him to the extent of killing themselves.

The whole incident was so horrifying. It's hard to imagine what the residents of Jonestown thought as things worsened. The book says that the 45 minute audio of the final minutes of Jonestown are online and can be listened to. It was difficult enough hearing (audio book, remember?) the bits that the author quoted.

If you're interested in Jonestown at all or just like non-fiction, you should definitely read this. Incidently, you are reading my review on the 33rd anniversary of the event.

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