on June 12, 2016
I cried through the reading of this book. It was so sad to see the young boys pressed into 'being soldiers'. Ishmael's entire family was killed when rebels destroyed his village, as they did many villages. Ishmael was not a rebel, instead he was conscripted by the army. But the conditions were no better than that of the rebels. Later he was saved by an organization set on rehabilitating young soldiers. Ishmael went to school, was taken in by an uncle he never met and put his old life behind him as best he could. We now know him as a successful writer living in New York. This is a book not to be overlooked. Ishmael writes the book in a way that makes you care for him throughout the good and the bad.
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.
on September 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.
on July 10, 2007
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.
on July 7, 2016
Wow. It's rare for me to get hit by a book so much and feel so bad that I just want to hop on a plane to the country and help everyone out. But that's only because there are not many books out there like A Long Way Gone, not many books out there about child soldiers or children in Africa who are being affected by poverty, dehydration, violence and abuse constantly. We are so hidden from the rest of the world in our big suburban communities, in our huge cities with blazing lights, billboards that show the newest music, restaurants with the most exotic foods, and most of all, we are hidden from people like Ishmael Beah, and there are probably hundreds of thousands of Ishmael Beahs in countries like Sierra Leone. It just hurts me so bad, and this book really did hurt me. A Long Way Gone seems so fictional because it is so difficult for us readers to put ourselves in the shoes of our protagonist, Ishmael, who writes about his personal demons and battles as a child, being taken by foreign people, thrown into a truck with an AK-47 and being taught to kill, taking drugs and losing his family. There is so much that this book contains that is unimaginable, although Ishmael gives us the chance to believe that this is reality, for many young children and people who are constantly struggling, without the rest of the world knowing.
We are always told that we could make a difference. I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to visit these poor African countries. I don't know if I'll ever make it to the United Nations and speak for them (most likely, not). But because of all that Beah had done and conquered in his life in Sierra Leone, I'm going to state a very cheesy point here: our dreams could most definitely come true. This memoir, this novel, from all of the books that I have ever read, has given me the chance to have hope. Because when we look at all that Ishmael had to deal with and how he ended up where he is now, speaking for the United Nations in the best city in the world, New York City, writing a book and becoming famous for his courage, we can only have hope that all who are suffering will eventually not suffer anymore.
It's hard to retell Ishmael's story as a summary, because it all occurred, it is all true. I am not summarizing a story, but his life. Life in Ishmael's small village was normal when he was ten years old, until his village got attacked and he and his brother were on the run for it. They didn't know where, but they were on the run. Eventually, they get separated and Ishmael meets a new group of friends, and they all undergo struggles for food and clean water. Ishmael's story expresses all of the troubles that children and people in Africa undergo all in a year or so, or perhaps, a little more than that.
There were moments where I felt that I was being forced to read this book, and others where I just enjoyed it so much that I couldn't stop. I had to read this book for school, and I was supposed to compare it to other works I read in that semester, like Life of Pi. Both differ, this being a solemnly true story, while Yann Martel's being fiction, but they compare at the same time. I enjoyed this because my emotions kept exploding all over the place. I was happy when Ishmael was safe, being helped by the United Nations Peacekeepers, but then remembering that Ishmael lost his whole family in a few days.
I just have a warning for you readers: this is a really harsh read. You see, I never have issues with gore or blood, so I was okay with the vivid imagery. It certainly wasn't pleasing, but that didn't leave me enjoying the book less. Many reviewers did not enjoy the book for the fact that the goriness was very harsh. So, I would advise to keep caution, but honestly people? This is non-fiction. The book wouldn't be the same without this realness. We readers would not be able to feel what Ishmael had gone through, you know?
A Long Way Gone literally took me a long way away to Sierra Leone, and this book seriously is energetic, heart-breaking, raw and full of feelings that many books have difficulty providing readers with. Ishmael Beah is the kind of person who will inspire you and make you so interested with the culture that he is writing about in the novel. After reading, I had to do a presentation on Sierra Leone, and I immediately felt so comfortable with its facts and information that this book felt like home. I just wish it had that extra push in the beginning—I had no knowledge of where Beah was going to take us.
on 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.
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.
on October 24, 2008
Imagine, you live in a village; you know, the ones without electricity and plumbing? You get water from the river for your mother so she can cook dinner but, when you come back, the village is ablaze and everyone is running. Not just running in one direction but everywhere; screaming, yelling, falling down dead.
This is what causes Ishmael Beah's childhood to be lost.
Beah starts out as a quiet, peace-loving boy who suddenly is on the run from all the destruction and terror with his older brother, Junior, and some friends. After months of wandering on paths and in the forest, they come to a farm outside of a village. Beah finds out his family is in the village and as a group they start walking. Then the rebels attack and his family is dead.
Torn, tired, and angry, Beah will eventually lose everything he cared about; his family, his health (both mentally and physically), and almost his life. As a boy soldier recruited by the Sierra Leone Army he changes drastically. Drugs, energy stimulants, and other illegal acts (in the United States) cause him to kill without thinking, never even cringing at
the sight of death and basically causing him to feel almost inhuman.
A LONG WAY GONE is Ishmael Beah's memoir based on his experiences and the tragic events of his life. I loved this book because it was a huge eye-opener about the war in Sierra Leone and how it affected everyone, even children. I also believe that everyone should read this book at least once in their life time. Maybe then people can help those who have become boy soldiers or anyone affected by a war. Maybe A LONG WAY GONE could change the world, make it a more peaceful place; that is what I hope can happen.
Reviewed by: Rachel - The Class
on December 16, 2008
Ishmael Beah's memoir about his life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone gives the reader graphic insight into the recruitment and use of children in armed combat. Without a doubt, Beah's narrative is shocking and disturbing. The first part of the memoir describes Beah's indoctrination into the Sierra Leone military, while the second half deals with his rehabiliation and journey back from the nightmare he has been living as a child soldier. Finally, he is deprogrammed at Benin Home, a local rehabilitation centre near Freetown, and he is selected to travel to the United States to both tell his story and become involved with the United Nations initatives that seek to end the use of child soldiers.
Beah's story is a an unsettling one; yet it also gives the reader hope that change is possible, albeit painfully slow. Beah also compels his audience to think carefully about who is "good" and who is "evil" in a world where all sides involved are committing atrocities. Beah's voice is articulate and clear throughout the course of his memoir, lending authenticity and credibility to his accounts. Recommended. [Amy MacDougall]
We're damn lucky to have not shared the same fate as the author. To be turned from a boy into a remorseless killing and torturing machine is something that is frightening on many levels. I am deeply moved by the author's ability to overcome his tragic story, which is just about as bad as it can get. But what scares me is how easily he descended into it, and how easily a country let it happen. It's hard to care about other countries when we all have our own problems, but this book just made it a lot easier for me to seriously think about ways in which I can help other children avoid Ishmael's tragic childhood. Fantastic book.