This is how wars are fought now by children, hopped up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. In the more than 50 violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But it is rare to find a first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now 26 years old, tells a riveting story in his own words: how, at the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By 13, 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.
©2007 Ishmael Beah (P)2007 Macmillan Audio
I chose to read this book with a senior literacy class and they couldn't get into it despite such pressing subject matter. It was terribly structured. Half way through my students doubted the authenticity of the story and found compelling articles from the Australian that totally discredit Beth's version of events. We felt cheated for sympathising with him. Sad, because I am sure Beah's story would be strong enough without gratuitous embellishments.
This book is profoundly evocative and hauntingly visceral. Estimates suggest that as many as 300,000 child soldiers are active in conflicts around the world. 40% of armed forces (including national armies, militias, gangs, terrorist organizations and resistance forces) in the world use children. Then there are the children killed in war zones or taken into slavery.
I am grateful beyond words to have never experienced war and I hope I remember this book when I want to complain about trivial things.
Peace to my Sierra Leonean friends who survived the civil war.
I didn't know what to expect but I'm glad I listened to this audiobook. While it is such a sad story in so many ways, it is also a wonderfully inspiring story. And it was made all the more engaging being spoken by the author. There was much to take away from this book and I'd recommend it to any reader.
I appreciated that the account was written and narrated by a boy with first-hand experience. He explains his fear and struggle for survival from his own experiences and you begin to understand, reluctantly, how an innocent child with such a big heart could perform such atrocities. You also learn that these tainted children, at least some of them, have the capacity for rehabilitation and the ability to attain happiness after such horrible experiences full of hatred and violence. His story makes you question humanity, but his survival and recovery will return hope and faith of the good in this world. This book makes you want to become an activist for the plight of these children and their families.
I like that it was his story; it added to the narrative knowing it was his experiences he was telling you about.
It did get under my skin and I had a hard time not thinking about it when I was away.
This book was amazing. I read a lot and I've never read something like this!! I'm happy I Read It
"Fascinating and tragic story"
Sad yet hopeful.
I like that he was able to be rescued from the life of child soldier and go on to present about these issues at the UN.
It's his memories. One thing is when he signs some of the songs that made him happy as a kid, you can tell they still do.
"An Eye-opening Read."
I am very glad to have opened myself up to the harsh reality that others have experienced. My life and the way I see things have truly changed.
A Long Way Gone is among the top 20 Audiobooks I've heard.
Pertaining to the corrupt use of power and the effects of agency I would say Killing Pablo was another captivating book describing evil.
Nurse Esther was the most inspiring character who brought Ishmael back through love.
"Intense, but not intense enough"
This is a story of a 12 year old boy’s life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. The writing is first person and author narrated, but did not strike me as intensely personal, or brutally honest, or deeply introspective. It effectively tells the story of how a normal kid becomes a killer, and then returns to some level of normalcy. If you are not familiar with the issue of child soldiers, this book is an excellent introduction.
I expect quite a lot from a memoir. In this case I heard the author’s intense story, but I also felt the author held back the very worst and the potentially most powerful. It is completely understandable for a young man (now 26) to be unready to express the fullness of the story, but a memoir should await that readiness.
The narration is good, but a bit dry and in a very few places difficult to understand.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the issues surrounding child soldiers, but as a memoir, or as literature, I found it weak.
There is an appendix dryly recapping the history of Sierra Leone which seemed a pretty odd way to end a memoir.
Initially I was captivated and moved by Ishmael's story, but at some point I started to realize that some of the descriptions may be self-serving and hyperbolic. When I did a Google search, I found that there was ample evidence of major factual flaws in the book. If Ishmael presented his book as a work of fiction based on personal experiences, it would have been a powerful work. His dishonesty in presenting it as entirely factual, takes away all merit from the book
"Thank You Ishmael"
This book provides evidence as to why we're even on this site: the power of story telling. Story telling has the power of cleansing, restoring, repatriating and healing and giving hope when seemingly none is there. I believe the author is continuing to heal. The book, however, tugs at the scars that we all have and through these incursions, makes the scarring more knotted, complex and hopefully stronger as we draw strength from one another. Story telling helps Ishmael in his childhood, through the war, through his soldiering and into and through his "repatriation". His retriggering into and our of trauma. There are instances of fluctuation from innocent child to deep (in)humanity and back again. Memorably, when asked to explain rap music, he describes it as PARABLES that the white man can understand. I will put this book on my therapeutic bookshelf as it can help many of my patients with PTSD that has originated in childhood and watch the journey unfold. Refreshingly, it's applicability is multicultural. The audiobook read by the author lends and additional layer of connection and realism. Thank you Ishmael for sharing with us your stories for both your benefit and especially ours.
"Nothing Like It"
I picked up this audiobook after discovering that my ancestors are from the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone. Wanting to hear what it is like there, I said let me give this story a shot (no pun intended). And wow. To hear the chronology of events that took place FROM the author himself. Ismael Beah does an incredible job of taking the listener through this emotional Rollercoaster. Job. Well. Done.
One day.... One day I will meet him and thank him in person. And another day, I will visit the land of my ancestors, Sierra Leone.
This book is a must read for all Americans. It's compelling and inspiring, telling the story of the loss and recovery of a young boy's soul.
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