Book Review-A Long Way Gone

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A Long Way Gone Ishmael Beah

Emotional Response-3

Scholarly Response-1

Years ago, a colleague of mine encouraged me to read this book. I am glad I finally did. This is Ishmael Beah’s story of how the war in his home country of Sierra Leone affected him. He reminisces about his childhood before the war. He tells us how unexpectedly his life was changed forever when his village was destroyed by the rebels. He spends years on his own and with a group of other young boys struggling to survive. And then he becomes a child soldier. If your heart wasn’t already broken, this part of his story will break it. My favorite part (although still not easy to listen to) is the story of his rehabilitation after his years of fighting.

This story is difficult and awful and maybe this is why it took me so long to pick up this book. I listened to the book on CD which is read by the author. Hearing his stories in his own voice was very emotional for me. There were times when I wanted to swoop in and save him. And yet, I kept listening allowing him to tell me his story. It is not easy to listen to his stories of killing people and doing drugs and think about how young he was. It is horrific to hear how he and others resisted rehabilitation. It is hard to hear how much the boys hurt and abused those who were trying to help them as they began the rehabilitation process. The good news is that those working to help stuck with it and loved the boys even when the boys seemed unloveable and when they thought they were unworthy of love.

This book is not like the other books I have recommended so far. It received a low scholarly score because that isn’t the aim of the book. It received an average emotional score because I wanted to stop listening because I hoped if I stopped listening his awful story would never have happened. I kept listening because he and others like him need to tell their stories. And we need to listen.

I’m glad I read this book. I recommend it for anyone who wants to know what life is like for too many children in our world whose childhood’s are stolen from them due to situations outside their control. I recommend this book for anyone who remembers hearing about the war in Sierra Leone and wants to hear firsthand what it was like there. I recommend it for anyone who loves children and is willing to listen to horrible stories of violence and abuse and tragedy so that we might protect all of God’s children and do our best to make sure this stops happening.

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