A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

March 7, 2011
When we think of war, we think of two different sides fighting for something, but we don’t think about the extreme consequences it has on the people fighting in it. War is probably the most stressful, scary, and life-changing event that a person can experience. Conflicts arise left and right. In A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, not only is Ishmael fighting in a war, he is a child, lost and alone, fighting in a war.


Ishmael starts the book as a normal child having fun and living his life, but is soon thrown into the violence and horror of war. During the course of the book, Ishmael finds himself falling into trouble and getting out of it a couple times. It’s ironic because the reason that Ishmael would escape was because of gunshots. He’s scared for his life and doesn’t know what to do but on his journey, he connects with his grandma. He hears the quote “We must strive to be like the moon” and contemplates on what it means. When he asks his grandma, she tells him that it means that people should always be on their best behavior and to treat others well. This gave Ishmael hope and he would gaze upon the moon and look for the images of when he was six.


Ishmael’s whole experience changed his whole life because he came so close to death multiple times. In several cases, the rap cassettes that Ishmael carried around from his past saved him. These confrontations led to the creation of conflicts. Ishmael is the protagonist at first while he deals with understanding all of the horrors of the war in Sierra Leone. At first, the antagonists are the obvious choices: the rebels. But later in the book, it is Ishmael who becomes the antagonist. Ishmael can’t find the strength to bring himself back from a cold-hearted soldier back to his innocent childhood.


The writing style of the book is first-person. Ishmael tells the story of his troubling experience of fighting a war as a child soldier. The book is mainly a biography mixed with elements of a memoir. Ishmael has gone to many different talk shows to talk about the book. Although there was a whole controversy about Ishmael’s book not being truthful, Ishmael has fought back strongly and defended it.


I really enjoyed this book because it was a heart-wrenching story and there was never a dull moment. It really opened my eyes to the tragedies of not only fighting a war, but the fact that they have children fighting and killing people. It was a great book and I’d recommend it to everyone. There was one quote that was really true and stuck with me: “This is one of the consequences of the civil war. People stop trusting each other, and every stranger becomes an enemy.” This quote is true not only in war, but in life. Sometimes the people you trust can be thrown against you.





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