Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is one of those books that you want to read, but at the same time, you know that the story is not going to be a happy one. The story takes place in Sierra Leone, during the civil wars of the 1990's. Ishmael tells his story, beginning with a glimpse of what his life was like before the war came to his small village. Much of the narration centers on his life after the war separates him from his village and family, but before he is made a boy soldier. For two years he wanders the jungles with some friends, going from village to village, but they all know that they can never truly escape the war. He sees terrible things as he flees from one place to the next.
Ishmael is brought into the nation's army as a boy soldier at the age of 13, after final hope of reuniting with his family is lost. The officers play off of his desire for revenge. They give him food, drugs, and a place to sleep. He is given a gun, and responsibility far beyond that which should be given to any 13 year old. All of this makes him feel necessary to the group. Ishmael's narration does not dwell on his time in the army. After he is taken to a rehabilitation center at 15, he tells a little bit of the story, but mostly he seems to understand that his readers will realize the horrors of being in such a war without his descriptions.
Ishmael was lucky to be singled out as being special at his rehabilitation center. He is sent to America, where he speaks on behalf of children affected by war. Later, when war once again comes to his home to destroy his family, he uses the connections he made in America to help him leave his war-torn home. His individual story shows what a person can do when they have hope for the future and a desire for peace. But the overall story is one of a country torn apart, families destroyed, cities ravaged. Many of the children that humanitarians try to rehabilitate end up back with the army because they have no where else to go. This book opens the reader's eyes to the destruction of war, and offers hope for those children trapped in it.

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