Chelsea's Reviews > A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown

A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
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's review
Sep 01, 2011

liked it

While I can tell I'm going against the grain here by giving this book a lower score, I'll try to do my best to justify my reasoning behind this action.

First off, I understand this is a non-fiction piece about Jonestown, but this woman had a LOT of material to work with, and I felt like she only summarized what the survivors (or victims) said or did instead of letting them tell us. There were only a few parts in the book where we actually read word-for-word what Jones himself had said to the mass of his people. By this, I was disappointed. That being said, I understand it wouldn't be necessary to always put what the people had said verbatim, but I think it would have been a lot easier to read if she had done so intermittently.

Secondly, this book gave me the vibe that I was reading from a script of a documentary, not a book. It didn't seem so bad near the end of the book, but now that I'm reading another non-fiction piece, I think she could have done a better job turning the events into an actual story instead of just dealing us out information that kind of overloaded me.

As far as the pros go, this is a very good book if you want to learn the step-by-step process through how the Jonestown massacre came about. However, that is kind of my con as well--I didn't want to read a textbook illustrating that Edith wrote in her diary on August 26 but not August 27, or that on September 20th, Edith's roommate started complaining about her hip hurting (these are examples I made up). I will say that I expected more. I expected to be entranced and entrapped by Jones as so many of his people were. However, even though the author states she is going to try to do just so, I never get caught up in Jones, only in his slurred speech and addiction to speed. I wanted to be hypnotized by Jones's words to feel the anguish his people perhaps felt later, as betrayal.

Therefore, I gave the book 3 out of 5 stars because, while like a textbook, it tells you thoroughly what happened, Scheeres doesn't give me the craving I felt for more detail about the victims, the survivors, and of course, Jones. It does, however, lead me to want to investigate more about this all-too-famous massacre.
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Reading Progress

September 1, 2011 – Started Reading
September 1, 2011 – Shelved
September 2, 2011 –
page 100
September 5, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Skyqueen May I ask what other non-fiction piece you are reading??

Chelsea Skyqueen wrote: "May I ask what other non-fiction piece you are reading??"

I think I was reading an unrelated novel at the time called "Red House" by Sarah Messer.

Skyqueen Thank you. Yes it was in the past, I didn't mean to make it sound current. But wait, you are now saying novel? I'm confused. You were comparing her non-fiction to a fiction (story) or non-fiction (more documentary) that you were reading at the time??

Chelsea Skyqueen wrote: "Thank you. Yes it was in the past, I didn't mean to make it sound current. But wait, you are now saying novel? I'm confused. You were comparing her non-fiction to a fiction (story) or non-ficti..."

I was comparing her non-fiction to another non-fiction.

Skyqueen Yes. That's what I thought you meant, but your reply SAID, "I was reading an unrelated NOVEL". So afterward I looked up "Red House" and it is NON-fiction. I guess you just mistyped. :) Will check it out.

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