‘A Long Way Gone’ – Ishmael Beah

A stunning, unflinching story which leaves the reader haunted…’A long way gone’ by Ishmael Beah is an extraordinary memoir, a firsthand report of the hardships and horrendous concepts such as massacre, that a child soldier faces.

Joyous, rap music-lover, Ishmael Beah with movies as the only exposure to war, at the tender age of 12, along with his country Sierra Leone, is suddenly thrown into a long, bloody civil war, and is transformed from a gentle, loving boy to a ruthless, cold-hearted killer.

The book vividly describes the impact on the young minds, on being witnesses of families being torn apart and also sufferings of the sick, helpless, and those left behind.

Descriptions on the state of refugees, who are ill-treated, bribed by their own nation, and in sequence are forced by circumstances and fate to join the army and commit cruel crimes and atrocities, leaves the reader haunted.

The book, thankfully, takes a turn and Beah is handed over to UNICEF for rehabilitation. He slowly and painfully overcomes his drug addiction and is reinstated with his uncle in Freetown, where again he finds himself heading to war. He tries to escape being a rebel or worse even a recruit, and is successful in his endeavour.

 The book is a must-read and one which kindles the feeling of gratitude that we, who live in a part of the world which is so safe and sheltered, have escaped such pain and brutal cost of losing one’s immediate family at such a young age. The book leaves a lasting impression of a long way gone by a determined mind which comes back, overcoming such trauma, with both humanity and sanity intact.

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