August 8, 2009

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

BOOK #: 64
REASON READ: 21 Cultures Challenge
PUBLISHER:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
GENRE: Memoir
RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

I have been wanting to read this ever since it came out. I finally checked it out on audio from the library a couple of weeks ago. I was so swept up in the story as Beah narrated the story of his childhood as a child soldier in Sierra Leone.

In fact, it was so heartbreaking at times I had to pause the CD and catch my breath. The descriptions of the people being murdered and even of Ishmael climbing the coconut tree when he was starving were so vivid I felt like I was actually there. The pictures in my mind were so crisp and clear. It took me a while to get through the story.

However, I am glad I did. This is a story that goes straight to the gut and turns up all kinds of emotions. It is hard to hear, but important to hear. Now, I have read (thanks to Stark Raving Bibliophile) that all kinds of controversy has been going on about whether the time line in Beah's story is accurate, but as someone who is not a historian, it mattered less to me than the story of a horrible civil war that captured children right in the middle of it. And just because this war is now over does not mean that the use of child soldiers went with it. Children are being used as soldiers all over the world because children are more easily manipulated. While children should be protected, children are instead being exploited.

Have you read this book? What did you think? What do you think about the controversy about the book? Leave your comments!

Other Reviews of A Long Way Gone:

Stark Raving Bibliophile
The Book Lady's Blog
Trish's Reading Nook
Ramya's Bookshelf
an adventure in reading
The Book Book


  1. I felt the same way about this one. I knew that Beah came out okay but I just couldn't see how. So, so terrible!

  2. Thank you for your great review, Rebecca. I have been really wanting to read this one as well. I think stories like this are so important to read. I can't wait to get to it.

  3. I listened to this on audio, too, and had the same reaction as you - it was heart-wrenching and beautifully told. I had read about the controversy when it happened, but it didn't change how I felt about the book. I can't imagine how he would be exact with his dates and timeline anyway, with the drug use and the horrors he was experiencing. I'm just glad he told his story.

  4. Ooh, I'm not sure I could have listened to this on Audio, though I do think it's a must read.

  5. I'm glad to hear your thoughts on this book. So what if the time line doesn't fit someone's else idea? He was a child, drugs were used, hunger and fear dominated at times etc. His experiences and perspective are valid no matter what, and important for the world to know about. Glad you wrote about it.

  6. Yes, I agree with Sandra. I hadn't heard about the controversy, but he was a kid in a horrible situation. I doubt he was overly concerned with historical accuracy.

    I think Beah's story of survival is really inspiring. I'm definitely going to borrow this book from my brother once he finishes it.

  7. I wouldn't say surviving an ordeal is coming out okay, but okay. Really enjoyed your review. We have this on our shelves. Haven't read it yet.

    I heard about the controversy. While I can understand the bruha. The reality is this is the reality of child soldiers so how much does it matter if Beah embellished, blurred fact with fiction?

    Please drop this link for our Color Me Brown Challenge. It's not limited to fiction.

  8. This book, while great, is a difficult read. Luckily, it was very well-written so even the terribly disturbing parts transform you.

  9. I agree with you, Rebecca. It seemed to me that the "controversy" was about the timing of events -- whether certain parts of his journey took place over months or years. I didn't see anyone challenging *what* happened. If the allegations of inaccuracies are true, it doesn't diminish the message of this book. I admire Ishmael Beah because he has dedicated himself to raising awareness of child soldiers around the world. He seems like an amazing young man.

  10. I haven't read this book, but I would like to. I know parts of it would be difficult to stomach, but I also feel like it's necessary to read things like this to become more aware of the world.


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