Feb 18, 2020
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Book Review: “A long way gone”

It is easy to take freedom for granted when a war has not been fought on American mainland in 197 years.

It is easier still to personally detach from a picture that has never been a reality.

When I was 12 years old my biggest fears were high school and fitting in.

At the same time on the other side of the globe, a young man fought for his life in a war torn country that used children as weapons.

I just learned of his plight this year.

Despite what some would view as a not so desirable childhood, my past pales in comparison to that of author Ishmael Beah.

We may have been listening to some of the same politically questionable rap music but his taste was saving his life while mine was just driving my mother crazy.

Mustering bravery and courage while overcoming immense obstacles, Ishmael, then just a boy, became a man when the odds were drastically against him.

“A Long Way Gone,” is a testament to strength, perseverance and rehabilitation. It echoes hope, grace and friendship.

Beah’s story is vividly written and is easily mentally picturesque. Although, it does not lend to the best mental picture.

While Beah is struggling to live amongst a battle for Sierra Leone, he is trapped in fear and stuck between death and an existence not so unlike it.

The book begins with a look at Beah’s present condition as a rehabilitated man conversing with friends in New York. Then, the story takes a nose dive straight into the first day of the rest of Beah’s life.

You know he’ll make it out somehow, someday, but the odds seem impossible amidst the dramatic descriptions of his looming death as reflected in the eyes of murdered civilians, the rebels that slaughtered them and the rebels he slaughtered.

Not unlike a well-written television drama, just when you think things are getting better they take another turn for the worst.

After the book’s release, amongst acclaim, Beah’s story was challenged, unintentionally at first, then unwaveringly and finally, downright rudely.

Was Beah on trial?

There could be an infinite number of reasons Beah’s story did not exactly match the story of others. What two people can see the same scene as the same? How accurate is any story of war, massacre, and invasion, especially when it is delivered by a terrified young boy who kills to live?

American history is constantly challenged; when you get older you learn all the stories from early education are not true. Many of the tales have been tastefully rearranged.

For me, the real story is the tale of perseverance and courage. The details are minor compared to the major impact of sharing such a heroic tale.

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