Ishmael Is “A Long Way Gone” From the Boy Soldier He Was


“A Long Way Gone” offered a unique perspective of the true atrocities suffered by the people of Sierra Leone during political unrest and war.  A young boy who loved rap music, Ishmael was on his way to put on a show with his friends in a neighboring village when his village was attacked.  Separated from his family and left with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, the events begin years of turmoil and homelessness for him.  Ishmael wandered with his friends, stealing food and sleeping anyway to survive.  His vagabond life stretched until he was swept up into an army as a boy soldier, where he learned to reveal in the atrocities of war.

The story was a well written account of true horror.  As a boy soldier, Ishmael learned how to shoot a gun and kill to save himself.  Drugs become a daily norm, and he was soon addicted to cocaine mixed with gun powder.  His new life required that he mentally shut off the world to survive and adapt to the killing around him.  The terror he witnessed and inflicted was horrific, and will stay with me.  His account of burying alive enemy soldiers who were captured was particularly startling and showed how easily one can adapt to inhumanity in wartime.  Ultimately, Ishmael was saved when UNICEF workers buy several of the boy soldiers from the man running the vagabond army, and fatefully, Ishmael was chosen to leave.  The journey to recovery is long, but eventually he found absolution, and became an advocate for the people of his country and boy soldiers at the UN.

The book provided an interesting view into a world that has yet to be examined through such a first hand account.  Never lagging, the story maintained a fast pace and was packed with action.  I liked the book very much and would recommend it to those interested in learning about cultural events.

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