Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres (REVIEW)

Although not the usual Book Brats fare, A THOUSAND LIVES is a must read for any Book Brat. Nonfiction with a literary flare, the story of Jonestown is a story that nobody should forget - even those of us born long after the events.

“I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take a thousand with me.” —Jim Jones, September 6, 1975

The people who built Jonestown wanted to forge a better life for themselves and their children. They sought to create a truly egalitarian society. 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. Yet even as Jones resorted to lies and psychological warfare, Jonestown residents fought for their community, struggling to maintain their gardens, their school, their families, and their grip on reality.

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.
A THOUSAND LIVES by Julia Scheeres
Published October 11th, 2011 by Free Press
320 Pages

Let me begin this review by saying yeah, yeah, this really isn’t the type of book I normally read and review for my blog. In fact, this will probably be one of the stranger things you view here because non-fiction generally isn’t my thing after six years of political textbooks and memoirs about Presidents and Secretaries of State. The Jonestown deaths happened nine years before I was even born, but I’ve read all the books I can get my hands on about it because it is a moment in our past that we really should remember and reflect on, and that includes young women ages 18-30.

A THOUSAND LIVES by Julia Scheeres starts with a main point – the people who eventually died with the Peoples Temple in Jonestown did not join a cult. They thought they were joining a church that cared, a group of people who were genuine in their search of equality. What the victims wanted was something genuine and desirable – a world without discrimination and hate. Scheeres uses a mixture of documents collected from Jonestown and the Peoples Temple and firsthand accounts to piece together a story that reads like literary fiction while being all too real. The stories these people tell mix horrifying elements, control, and domination with hope for the future, hope for a better life. The way Scheeres tells the story of Jonestown is perfect, eloquent, and heartwrenching.

From the stories of scared teenagers looking for a second chance to elderly women who strove to be equal with the world around them, the stories in A THOUSAND LIVES will make you step back and think about your world and what you would do if you were in their shoes.

So yeah, this isn’t my usual blog fare. I mean, yeah, it says in my review policy section that I like books about cults, but I didn’t expect that I would ever post a review of a book about a cult on Book Brats. I never thought that many other people my age with my taste would want to read a book like this besides me. But do I think you should give it a shot.

“Those who do not remember history are bound to repeat it.” A quote that Jim Jones used to stir his people, but at the same time, a quote that is so true. If we don’t remember our past, we really are bound to make our mistakes all over again.

VERDICT: A stirring retrospective of a deranged leader and the fanaticism that lead to the deaths of hundreds of people looking for real change. A definite must read.


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