Review: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

This is how wars are fought now: by children traumatized, hopped-up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. Children have become the soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwice, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. At the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land renderred unrecognizable by violence. By 13, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, with the heart of a gentle boy, found out he was capable of truly terrible acts. At 16, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabiliatation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and finally, to heal.
I first heard of this book when Starbucks highlighted it as its featured book in their shops. I have been wanting to read it since then. This was our book club read this month. I enjoyed the book, but it was difficult to read about all the violent and tragic events that took place. Beah is an amazing storyteller and has remembered many details about his life running from the war and then participating in it. His details were so good that I could visualize the the destruction that was taking place around him and imagine the horrific images he described. Even though you knew Beah turned out ok and made it through, you were still encouraged to read through each of the many circumstances, knowing that he was able to come out alive, but surprised each time he did. The story was gripping the whole way through although I was disappointed in the ending. I would have like to hear about how he actually made it to NYC and how he began to live his life there. I appreciated the map in the front of the book and the explanations at the bottom of the pages for words I wouldn’t know the meaning to. I have a much better understanding of the turmoil, violence and fear that goes on daily in other parts of the world and ever grateful to be an American. I thank Beah for sharing his story and I wish the best to him in his new life as an American. This is a quick read, but at times I had to put it down and take a break from the story. I give this 4 out of 5 stars.
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