Sedi Sedehi's Reviews > What Is the What

What Is the What by Dave Eggers
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's review
Nov 11, 2009

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Read in October, 2009

this a semi non fictional story (events are real, charater names are not) about a sudanese boy as he recounts his story, and that of the lost boys, of the sudanese civil war. The book opens in Atlanta, where Valentino works at a health club and attends a community college — and where, in the first
chapter, his apartment is broken into by thugs, thus confirming his growing awareness that violence is not an exclusively East African problem. Bound and gagged, held captive by a boy not much older than he was when his peregrinations began, he recalls his tranquil childhood among the Dinka tribe in the village of Marial Bal.Rebel soldiers arrive at the village and, while stealing sugar from the
shop, severely beat our young hero’s father. Marial Bal becomes a battleground, fought over by government and rebel armies; the village is strafed by army helicopters, invaded, burned, occupied. And Achak (who will take the name Valentino only later in his tale) narrowly escapes. the remainder of the story describes how other boys--who also left their villages due to the same fate--converge and become known as the lost boys. the book describes the interminable walking, the militia and bombs, starvation and disease, lions and crocodiles that kill countless young boys as they attempt to find refuge in Ethiopia and Kenya. The obstacles of their journey are so astonishing and heart-breaking that you often wonder how they can go on. the novel is a testament to human strength, evil and is over 500 pages but a quick read.

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