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Book 26 Completed

April 28, 2010

I read this book in less than a day — it was that compulsively readable. I found some of the language dry and the plot a bit too much of the “and then this happened…and then this happened…and then this happened”, but none of those literary complaints diminished the pressure on my heart as I turned each page. Beah’s memoir is one of those books that should be thrust into the hands of everyone who wants to complain about petty things. (It’s all a matter of perspective, right?)

How about watching mothers run with bullet riddled babies on their backs; watching five-year-olds set on fire for sport? Are you afraid of being killed because you want to buy food and water? Have you lost everyone you’ve ever loved?

The atrocities that Sierra Leone faced — with zero help from the outside world for EIGHT years (no one cared while villages were burned and entire tribes annihilated — when the war finally reached the capital, then the UN stepped in by sending diplomats, who were ineffective in helping maintain the peace agreement. Then it took another year for Britain (and only Britain) to deploy troops) — are so unimaginable that I am literally sickened to think about what the human race does to each other.

Beah’s book is really incredible because he makes it easy to see how a child can get swept up in the war. The young boys (as young as seven) are alone, completely. A group gives them food, shelter, comfort, and a sense of purpose — then after trust is built, they give them the anger needed to fuel revenge. Add to that an endless stream of mind-numbing drugs and you have an army of children ready to march out in front. I found MYSELF swept up in the energy of Beah’s attachment to these soldiers thinking, “Yeah. He should totally kill the rebels! The rebels are the enemy! They are ruthless!” And then I realized…ummm…but the army is also killing defenseless women and children. And they’re drugging these kids and sending them on the most dangerous missions. They’re just brainwashers.

When I didn’t have a clear sense of who is evil and who isn’t…I just became even more depressed.


This book launched me into a deep place of tears and sadness. (And THEN I found out LOST was a re-run too!! Not cool abc.) But Beah’s story is ultimately one of hope — child soldiers can be rehabilitated. And they can write books like this! This book can help bring about social change.

So, that is why I think everyone should read this at some point. It won’t be easy — the details of the killings are gut-wrenching. But this book is honest and it’s told in a very straight-forward manner. This is just a boy trying to tell his story. It’s not some journalist’s view, it’s not some hyped-up political rant. A Long Way Gone has heart, it has depth, and it’s an important read.

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