A Long Way Gone is a tragic story about a child who was forced to kill or be killed during the conflict in Sierra Leone. Fortunately, this story does have a happier ending than most.
I don't think this will spoil the ending, but Ishmael Beah, the author and main character of the story survived the war and was able to flee to the United States. It wasn't an easy journey but you will experience it with him and feel his pain and heartache as you travel across the country and world.
In simple prose you can easily follow along the story and at times feel you are with Beah being shot at and killing Rambo style. The human spirit is amazing. Ishmael is my age - but our stories have no similarities, nothing I have experienced compares to his. I could not put down his memoir once I started reading.
Here are some selected quotes:
I had heard from adults that this was a revolutionary war, a liberation of the people from corrupt government. But what kind of liberation movement shoots innocent civilians, children, tat little girl? There wasn't anyone to answer these questions, and my head felt heavy with the images that it contained. As we walked, I became afraid of the road, the mountains in the distance, and the bushes on either side. pg 14
The sound of the guns was so terrifying it confused everyone. No one was able to think clearly. In a matter of seconds, people started screaming and running in different directions, pushing and trampling on whoever had fallen on the ground. No one had the time to take anything with them. Everyone just ran to save his or her life. Mothers lost their children, whose confused, sad cries coincided with the gunshots. Families were separated and left behind everything they had work for their whole lives. My heart was beating aster than it ever. Each gunshot seemed to cling to the beat of my heart. pg 23.
I stood there holding my gun and felt special because I was part of something that took me seriously and I was not running from anyone anymore. I had my gun now, and as the corporal always said, "This gun is your source of power in these times. It will protect you and provide you all you need, if you know how to use it well. pg 124
I hadn't told him [uncle] that whenever I went to the bush with my cousins to fetch firewood, my mind would begin to wander to things I had seen and done in the past. Standing next to a tree with red frozen sap on its bark would bring flashbacks of the many times we executed prisoners by tying them to trees and shooting them. Their blood stained the trees and never washed of, even during the rainy season. I hadn't told him that often I was reminded of what I had missed by watching the daily activities of families, a child hugging his father, holding his mother's wrap, or holding two parent's hands, swinging over gutter. It made me wish I could go back to the beginning and change things. pg 190
You can visit the website A Long Way Gone to read more and continue the journey with Ishmael. You may have heard about this book from Starbucks, it was featured at many of their stores with book discussions and was apart of their entertainment network. This book can serve as a call to action to make sure that other children aren't forced into warfare - which is currently still happening in Africa.