A Long Way Gone Book Summary and Review


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Hattie Colegrove, Reporter

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers!!!

Ishmael Beah authored the novel A Long Way Gone in 2007, and touched the hearts of many with memoirs of a boy soldier. The story takes you on an adventure with Ishamel through Sierra Leone, set in the 1990s. The novel begins with Ishmael, his brother Junior, and his childhood friends; Kanei, Musa, Saidu, Jumah, Alhaji, and Moriba enjoying normal days, playing in the river, and listening to rap cassettes. Their journey begins when their hometown of Mattru Jong is raided by rebel soldiers. Ishmael and the others are forced to run from the situation, and journey to another village nearby. During the first few trips between villages, Ishmael loses his family and brother Junior amidst the chaos. The boys continue walking and end up held many times at gunpoint, but were let off the hook. Ishmael and his friends struggle while traveling village to village in search of food, water, and shelter. Soon enough, one of Ishmael’s friends Saidu passes away during the night.

Shortly after, Ishmael and his remaining buddies come upon an untouched village. They observe children dancing, women cooking, and one last glimpse of a normal life. Just as hope arises, the village is raided by the RUF, and the boys are taken to Yele to fight for the Sierra Leoneon army. In Yele the boys are trained physically to endure many hardships of war. In camp the boys also learn the unhealthy habit of taking drugs, smoking marijuana, and taking brown brown, described as gunpowder and cocaine mixed together, all while watching movies and playing card games. Also learning to master the way of killing was part of training for the boys. Gruesome details described Ishmael, Kanei, Sheku, and Josiah trying to impress their corporal commander with the way they slit enemies throats. The combination of these physical, mental, and social downfalls created killing machines who only sought to destroy the rebels.

The next portion of the novel consists of the redemption of Ishmael and other boys including Mambu, Alhaji, and Mohamed. Sent to a rehabilitation center, Benin Home, the boys struggle with fights, drugs, and rebellion until they have learned to join society again. Eventually, Ishmael communicates with, and trusts Esther, his nurse, when developing a great bond with her. Soon enough, Ishmael is taken in by his aunt and uncle, Sallay and Tommy. Ishmael is taken to a conference to speak for child soldiers in Sierra Leone, and the last chapter includes Ishmael running from the war once again, and ending up in Guinea.

This story will take you on an emotional, dramatic, and exciting adventure while you invest your time in the lives of these young boys. Personally, there was a connection created between myself and Ishmael. Although I would not truly feel his pain, metaphorically, when he ached I ached, when he grieved, I grieved. You will feel overwhelming sadness, frustration, anger, disappointment, and happiness all in the span of twenty minutes while reading. Many critics have reviewed this novel, and left positive feedback. I strongly suggest if you are looking for a captivating, interesting read that will definitely make you think differently, read this novel.