Monday, February 09, 2009

Book Review: A Long Way Gone

This book was not sent to me to review, but rather I picked it up on my own from the local library. I then didn't put it down unless I absolutely had to, until it was finished.

A Long Way Gone,a gripping account of a young boy caught up in the 1990's civil war in Sierra Leone, is both sad and disturbing. In the beginning, Beah is definitely a child; one who enjoys Shakespeare, rap music, and fooling around with his brothers. Soon this all changes and he is forced to survive in the jungles; where his age is a liability, since many soldiers are young boys.

Beah writes with brutal honesty about what he experienced, and how he changed from an innocent young boy into a drug fueled tool for violence and death at the hands of the national army. He then accounts how he was saved by the United Nations and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center, where he is repatriated. The war, however, continues and finally Beah is forced to flee again; this time leaving Sierra Leone altogether.

As I read his story I admit that all I could think about was Jake, and how fortunate we are to live in a peaceful and free country. I could not even begin to imagine the horrors that people who live in this area have had to deal with. This book became a topic of discussion in our family and I encouraged Jake to read it, so that he had some idea of what war is really like and what teens his age face in other parts of the world.

Both horrifying and yet inspiring, this book is a must read. While you are at it, please participate in Red Hand Day, to help drive home the message that we don't only want there to be a ban on the use of child soldiers, but it needs to be enforced. All children deserve to have a childhood.

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