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Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Long Way Gone Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My new friends have begun to suspect I haven't told them the full story of my life.
"Why did you leave Sierra Leone?"
"Because there is a war."
"You mean, you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?"
"Yes, all the time."
I smile a little.
"You should tell us about it sometime."
"Yes, sometime."

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

Summary taken from
Length: 226 pages (Paperback)
Source: Personal library
Publication Date: February 13th 2007

I would love to say that I enjoyed my trip to Sierra Leone but that would be impossible. The tone of the book makes it such a book that you love the way it is written but not what the book is about.

In the poignant, heart breaking story Ishmael Beah recounts his life as a child soldier during the civil war that wreaked havoc on his home country of Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002.

This harrowing tale shows how this man managed to survive when he went out on an outing with his older brother and some friends and when they were going home were told their village had been destroyed and follows him as he has to beg, lie, steal and kill for survival.

I thought this book was tastefully written. He did not glorify the killing he did. Infact the author is now a spokes person who advocates ending the use of child soldiers in war. Through his story he hoped to reach people and educate them on the horrors that occured where he grew up and those that continue to happen in other countries where the use of child soldiers is prevalent.

This book touched me deeply. I felt my heart breaking as he wanddered from village to village looking for his his family which meant that he had to face the very real possibility of being killed by rebels but also ordinary people who thought that him and his band of lost boys were rebels.

The things he had to see, hear, do and feel were things that no child or any person should ever have to experience. His harrowing journey from boy to man while horrible has a sense of hope.

When he was pulled out of the army to be rehabilitated to get back into regular society he had to detox as he was addicted to drugs and also had to learn to live with his demons...basically he had to learn how to be a child (teenager) again. While he didn't find his parents and brothers he did manage to find an uncle with whom he lived with and loved until his death.

This book made me really sit back and appreciate what I have a hell of a lot more than I usually do. I'd like to thank Ishmael for writing his story and I hope he continues to speak against the use of child soldiers...This is one book I believe everyone must read.

★ ★ ★ ★


  1. Great review baby.I cant imagine what he went through. A innocent child being lead into such evil acts. Amazing he could actually put his life together. I mean the poor kid, and what he had to go through. Its just like that old saying old man make wars and the young have to fight them. Even kids sadly. i should check this one out sometime. How long did it take to get clean off drug?. How did he learn to live with his demons?

  2. Great review - I've had this book on my TBR for so long, I just haven't had a chance to get to it. I will have to bump it up the list now!

  3. Oh wow, that is powerful. Sounds like I'll have to gear up emotionally to read though. Thanks for the review.

  4. Wow! Great review. Looks like a pretty serious read. Unlike you, who is going on a non-fiction/serious reading crusade, I'm tumbling onto more lighter reads. But I will have to read it sometime. Thanks. :)

  5. This sounds like an amazing book. We have a copy here since my son had to read it in high school. I'm glad I hung onto his copy. I'll have to snag it from him.


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