“There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land. It wasn’t until refugees started passing through our town that we began to see that it was actually taking place in our country.”
In his very engaging and highly readable memoir, Ishmael Beah narrates his journey as a 12 year old boy in Sierra Leone. From a trouble-making pre-teen, to coming face to face with a war that spreads across his country like cancer, Beah is forced to journey from his home – on foot – to keep one step ahead of the rebel soldiers, and certain death. Eventually he finds his way to the army camp, but not before finding out his family has been murdered. For awhile, the orphan boys were protected at the camp, but eventually the need for soldiers outweighed the army’s desire to protect the children, and they were handed weapons, trained and forced to fight. After three long years, Beah is rescued by aid workers and sent to Freetown for rehabilitation.
While A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is certainly sad and frightening, there is also a sense of hope. The people who help Ishmael along the way are like angels sent by a loving God. This book leaves the reader with many questions. War and political upheaval are devastating for a country – it’s children especially. What can we do to prevent these uprisings? How can we protect the children? There may be no easy answers to these questions, but without the dialogue, and the truth as shared by Ishmael Beah, the world will not be able to begin to tackle these tough issues.
3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2007