Friday, May 1, 2009

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

This is a depressing book and one that I really didn't want to read, and couldn't really stop.

The story flows from the everyday life of Ishmael in Sierra Leone. He is a young boy infatuated with rap music and the 'gangsta' world of hip hop. Then his childhood ends as the rebels take over the village where he lives. He is separated from his parents and all he knew ended.

I couldn't help but wonder how the children in my life would react. We live in a world of conveniences and ease. Ishmael lived in a world of story and family and love and hard work. As the story began he and his friends were walking 16 miles to a larger town to take part in a talent show. They never made it back to the home they left.

IC is 16 miles I read I imagined children raoming the countryside between here and IC. Wandering around starved and searching for family and food. And finding only death.

The story is told in Ishmael's 10 year old voice. Through the yearnings to belong and be something. It is a told as a story - moving through a shady timeline. Weaving through the images and the happenings of the next several months. And they are awful...he must constantly kep away from the rebels and slowly make his way to the army. Yet that doesn't solve things either...

So, I kept reading - through the blood shed and the heartache. Knowing there must be a redemption...I found one. Ishmael was rescued. Against his better wishes he was sent away from the army into the arms of aid workers. These workers helped to rehabilitate him and reunite him with his uncle.

So - you breathe a sigh of relief. You relax. But, just like any horror movie, it isn't really over. The war finds them in the capital of Sierra Leone - his uncle dies and Ishmael just escape again.

I finished the book, I am glad I read it. And I understand why the images were necessary. But, that doesn't make me like what I read.