Sandi's Reviews > A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
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Sep 08, 2008

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bookshelves: 2008, non-fiction
Read in October, 2008

** spoiler alert ** This is the true story of a boy who is recruited into the Sierra Leon army after a year of hiding in the forests of his country. He's given a gun, drugs and trained how to kill people. More than two years later, he's inexplicably selected to go to a rehabilitation center to become "normal" again. Unfortunately, the war follows him, both literally and spiritually.

The whole time I'm reading this book, my mind is saying, "This boy is the same age as my son." I try to picture my son and his friends hiding from rebels in the forest, starving and stealing to live. I try to picture my son and his friends with AK47's, shooting anyone that doesn't wear a green headband and taking drugs to numb the pain and allow them to continue killing. I can't imagine it and I am outraged that this is being done in other countries. I also hate what is done to the boys to turn them into killers. As Ishmael Beah describes his life before the war comes to his village, he is a typical young teenage boy. He hangs out with his friends, listens to music, sings and dances, wants to go to secondary school (even though dad won't pay), and has plans for his future. He's an ordinary boy, very much like my ordinary boy and his friends.

I can't help but thinking that this story might have been better told by someone else. When Beah writes about his experiences in the army and rehabilitation, he distances himself from the narrative. He states what happened, but there's no emotional connection to it. Now, I do understand that. For his own sanity, I can understand that he needs to distance himself from those atrocities and to write as if they were done to and committed by someone else. However, I would like to have seen some sort of outrage expressed over what happened to him and others. This story could have been so much more powerful than it was. I had to fill in the emotional blanks and there wasn't that much to work with.

At some point, I hope my son takes to reading. I would like to have him read this so he would understand how lucky he is to be living in America.
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Reading Progress

10/04/2008 page 30
13.04%
10/07/2008 page 58
25.22% "This book is making me realized how blessed I am to be an American."
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