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A Long Way Gone [Paperback]

Ishmael Beah
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 5 2008

A Globe and Mail Best 100 Books of the Year, New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of the Year, and Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year.

It is estimated that in the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now in his mid-twenties, tells how, at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels in his homeland of Sierra Leone and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence and war. 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.

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone's civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare. Beah's harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by American hip-hop music and dance to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly, sociopathic rebel and army forces. Beah then finds himself in the army—in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he's brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs. The process marks out Beah as a gifted spokesman for the center's work after his "repatriation" to civilian life in the capital, where he lives with his family and a distant uncle. When the war finally engulfs the capital, it sends 17-year-old Beah fleeing again, this time to the U.S., where he now lives. (Beah graduated from Oberlin College in 2004.) Told in clear, accessible language by a young writer with a gifted literary voice, this memoir seems destined to become a classic firsthand account of war and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—This gripping story by a children's-rights advocate recounts his experiences as a boy growing up in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, during one of the most brutal and violent civil wars in recent history. Beah, a boy equally thrilled by causing mischief as by memorizing passages from Shakespeare and dance moves from hip-hop videos, was a typical precocious 12-year-old. But rebel forces destroyed his childhood innocence when they hit his village, driving him to leave his home and travel the arid deserts and jungles of Africa. After several months of struggle, he was recruited by the national army, made a full soldier and learned to shoot an AK-47, and hated everyone who came up against the rebels. The first two thirds of his memoir are frightening: how easy it is for a normal boy to transform into someone as addicted to killing as he is to the cocaine that the army makes readily available. But an abrupt change occurred a few years later when agents from the United Nations pulled him out of the army and placed him in a rehabilitation center. Anger and hate slowly faded away, and readers see the first glimmers of Beah's work as an advocate. Told in a conversational, accessible style, this powerful record of war ends as a beacon to all teens experiencing violence around them by showing them that there are other ways to survive than by adding to the chaos.—Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This story is truly amazing June 23 2007
By Jenny J.J.I. TOP 500 REVIEWER
I like to say that "A Long Way Gone" is quite a depressing story but very inspiring. Ishmael Beah tells the story of becoming a boy soldier in Sierra Leone and of his later rehabilitation. This was a heartbreaking story and very difficult to read from an emotional standpoint. I read the book over a short period of time as it is so gripping that I did not want to put it down, but at the same time it brought an overwhelming sense of sorrow. The horror that Beah so well describes, was unbelievably moving.

The book is well written and flows rather nicely. However, the story itself is so incredible that, even if it were poorly constructed, it would have been worth reading. Saying that it was "worth reading" is not really adequate. All people should read it in order to remind us what the reality of life is outside of Western culture. It is partly because we block incidents like those described by Beah that they can continue to happen.

I would not presume to know how to stop the carnage that occurs in so many Third World countries, but I can not help but think that if we as a society, were more aware of them and had to face the emotions and gut wrenching sorrow that come with the knowledge of such atrocities, we would be far less willing to allow them to happen.

Ishmael Beah has demonstrated that he is a remarkable individual with great reserves. He shows what changes can come about when people are caring and thoughtful of others. I would venture to say that Ishmael Beah feels guilt for what he has done. However, I think he should be proud of the fact that he has endured and triumph over so much evil and pain in becoming who he is today. It was an honor to be allowed to read Beah's story, as it must have been as equally difficult to recount it, as it was to live through it. Highly recommended.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an absolute stunner. Sept. 7 2008
Incredible. I remember when I saw Jon Stewart's interview with Ishmael Beah that Stewart said that the book "made my heart hurt." Incredibly, terribly, amazingly true. Beah tells his story in a way that is simple and genuine. His writing style is not terribly developed and at times can be a bit rough, but that is more than compensated for by the fact that the story he has to tell is so mind-boggling. Beah chronicles the collapse of order in Sierra Leone, at least insofar as it affected his village and local area; his flight from his home and attempts to survive in the wild; his recruitment as a boy soldier, and his rehabilitation.

His story is so compelling that it held my grade eleven class of hard-bitten non-readers spellbound as I read the entire book to them aloud over the course of a few weeks. When I read the book for the first time, I went and hugged my wife and all of my children just to give thanks for their lives, and I'm not the sort of person who does that sort of thing ordinarily. (Not that I'm a jerk or anything, I just don't cry when Bambi gets shot.)

This is one of the books that everyone should read, if only to realize how damn lucky most of us are.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just my opinion July 10 2007
By Wassy
In my opinion, all great books are depressing and at the same time, uplifting. Such is the case with LONG WAY GONE. I'm attracted to books set in exotic locales, and this one fit the bill perfectly. What I wasn't prepared for was the remarkable writing style and great story. The story of a boy becoming a man, this is no average "coming of age" tale. Ishmael Beah teaches us something great in this work--that we can change, and that we can change others. Given the situation of the world today, I can't help but think this book is all the more relevant. I've recently read three incredible books lately, and this was by far the best---actually a tie with A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS and the incredible novel MIDDLESEX by Eugenides. I highly recommend all these.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a moth to the flame March 16 2007
For some reason, I'm drawn to books that deal with a human beings ability to deal with adversity. Perhaps it's my own experiences that have played some part in this, but for whatever reason I find that these stories inspire me; bring me to a new level. Books like "Night" and "Bark of the Dogwood" come to mind---books that take you through the fire and bring you out the other side. So, it was only natural that I'd be attracted to LONG WAY GONE by Ishmael Beah. This book is not for those who want to shy away from the graphic and ferocious accounts of war. Nor is it for those who are terribly sensitive to the plights of children, especially in war times. But it really should be read, not only for its harrowing story, but for the quaility of writing. The pacing is very effective and sometimes, well, a bit too real. I recommend this read to anyone who wants to know the full impact of war.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A first-person account of a child soldier that has had its authenticity challenged, and at the very least may not be independently verifiable, this is still worth the read. First of all, I don't think there's any doubt that Ishmael did indeed grow up in Sierra Leone and have some experience of the civil war. So although his account may be somewhat problematic and some things may have been added/removed to make the narrative more palatable, we're not talking a complete fabrication here. And frankly, what memoir doesn't have its credibility problems? At any rate, even if Beah's memory is faulty, we still have a pretty powerful indictment of child soldiery and a world that isn't doing nearly enough to stop it. This is not sensationalist, for the most part, and I'm afraid that what's true here includes the horrific psychological and social damage caused by civil war and the creation of child soldiers. Pick away at the evidence if you will, but there's still a story here that you need to read and need to think about - and do something about.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 17 days ago by mark
5.0 out of 5 stars So sad for these people
Very disturbing. So sad for these people. "love it " isn't the right expression for this book, but if comes with the 5 star rating. Read more
Published 3 months ago by lily silver
4.0 out of 5 stars A sad truth
Sad but true. Not enjoyable to read but mesmerizing nonetheless .
Published 3 months ago by Brenda F.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
It is very hard to believe this is happening in the world. I"m glad Ishmael Beah has told his story.
I'm sorry he has has to endure such hardships. Read more
Published 4 months ago by abbylane
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and Moving
A powerful and moving story of a boy caught up in the war in Sierra Leone. It is quite sad how quickly a society can disintegrate and move from humanity to the baseness of animals... Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. S. Wilson
3.0 out of 5 stars Very informative
This book is informative and teaches us how to appreciate a normal life, with a loving mother and father, rather than a father who comes and goes. Read more
Published 8 months ago by penelope costin
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This novel s a look into what usin the west almost never see. Imagining that this is a real story is beyond belief. This is a definite read!!!! Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ryan Gustafson
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible
What an amazing story - and so well written. Very sad but very empowering at the same time. Highly recommend this book.
Published 17 months ago by Sabina
4.0 out of 5 stars good service
book was in perfect condition and came way before the time specified which was nice! i would only recommend using a tracking method so the customer can see where it is. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Jasmine
5.0 out of 5 stars A boy soldier's account
Ishmael Beah's book "A Long Way Gone" is the written account of a boys life during wartime in Sierra Leone. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ashley
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