Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Long Way Gone (copy)

He is a refugee, a soldier, and a reformer; but most of all, he is a survivor. This is the true story of Ishmael Beah, as written in the horrific A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

Eleven-year-old Ishmael is living in the small village of Mogbwemo, Sierra Leone, as the story begins. His idyllic African life is filled with school (learning Shakespeare), friends (playing soccer, rapping to Run-DMC, and swimming in the river), and warm nights of storytelling by his grandmother. That is before the rebels attack his remote village, causing all to flee for their lives.

In the chaos, Ishmael and his older brother Junior, run in the opposite direction from their family. With every step their distance grows farther, as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) drives them deep into the jungle.

Later the next day, the boys return to a home filled with lounging rebels. Blood is splattered on the huts and pooled on the dirt; otherwise, there is no sign of family and friends. Relief feels their hearts as the lack of bodies provides the possibility of life. The brothers decide to travel on to the next village in search of their mother, grandmother, and baby brother.

For almost a year, they search and narrowly escape the rebels who seem to be walking in their shadows. They face isolation and starvation during this time, plus Junior becomes a victim of the war. By pure luck Ishmael finds and joins a group of six boys he knows from school.

Although Ishmael and his friends are only trying to survive, the villagers they encounter fear them. They have heard of ruthless gangs of boy soldiers and attack the seven boys as if they are rebels. How will these misfortunate children stay alive with rebels and civilians attacking them?

Involuntary conscription is the answer to their daily pain. By placing the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) uniform on, they can take regular showers, sleep under a roof, and eat two daily meals. Unfortunately, they will and do kill others with their army issued AK-47s and G3s.

What can be more frightening than a 13-year-old boy aiming an AK-47 at your person? This one thought haunted me throughout the reading of Ishmael’s brutal account of war. I found it remarkable how he became so dehumanized by the killing, yet rehabilitated to become a gentle adult.

Note: Number 2 Armchair Traveler's Reading Challenge
Number 2 RIP II Reading Challenge
Christina of Ardently Pink Reader had a totally different take.

13 comments:

Marg said...

I have this here to read soon! I am very much looking forward to it!

Maggie said...

I hope you like it Marg. I couldn't put it down! :)

Laura said...

I read this book after seeing the author interviewed on TV. His story is really compelling! I loved the book, too.

Diane said...

Wow - what a compelling story . . .

Debi said...

A friend recommended this book to me a few months back, but I haven't got to it yet. Wonderful review...think I need to move this one up a bit on the old to read list.

Paul said...

I think that I will pass on this book.

jenclair said...

I've read some positive things about this one, but boy, does it sound wrenching.

WorkingWords100 said...

It's sad what children have to go through. I hope his adult life is peaceful.

Maggie said...

Laura - I caught him on the Jon Daily Show and was blown-away by his calm, gentle nature. When he turns into a killer in the book, I automatically thought there was no way back for him. He's so smart, though.

Diane, Debi, Jenclair, WW100 - I didn't get into the horrible things on purpose. I don't want to scare anyone away from reading this one 'cos it is so compelling. What will happen to those (and he keeps refering to himself and teenagers as children) when peace returns?

The brown brown fascinated me. Does the mixture of cocaine and gunpowder give you a better high, is it just used to strech the cocaine, or is it a macho thing?

Paul - Ya got to read what ya got to read, but reference your latest post, there are no big boobs in this one. So, you'll probably not miss anything. ;D

Paul said...

Big boobs aren't the problem...I don't like to read about kids killing and toting AK47s. And I never heard of big boobs killing anyone. :-)

Literary Feline said...

I discovered this book when I was going through an Africa phase this past summer, but unfortunately didn't get to it at the time. Thank you for the great review, Maggie. It sounds like such a powerful story.

sage said...

wow, this one sounds good. Have you read "In the Land of the Green Ghost: A Burmanese Odyessy? He's a guy who reads Joyce in college and ends up in a war--one that we're hearing more about these days.

Maggie said...

Two good points, Paul! ;D

Oh, please do pick it back up Literary Feline. I checked it out four times this past year before finally reading it. Again, it's one of those books I should have read sooner...

No, Sage, I've not heard of this book. I'm afraid I need a break from the cruelty, but I promise to seek and place on my TBR pile.