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A Long Way Gone book review

By Claire Hilleary

The novel,  A Long Way Gone, has taught me so much about the experiences and aspects of the Sierra Leonean culture and how it differs from my own. It has taught me that children fighting in wars is actually and currently happening over there and most definitely in other countries as well.  I feel so many Americans have no idea about just how badly the standard of living is in other countries besides their own. In a way, America turns a blind eye.  Many organizations are trying to help out certain countries, though.

I think that something like this could definitely happen in America if the country turns to turmoil and the economic balance is thrown off. The leader of Sierra Leone was overthrown and killed and a new and evil government formed. This could certainly happen in America, though I do say it would be much more difficult due to the regulations and safety and documents we follow and have gone by since the birth of our nation.

For me, the novel’s message about the human condition is to show us that disgusting things really do happen all over the world every single day whether we want to believe it or not. The novel not only immersed me in a culture extremely different from my own, it let me feel deep sorrow for Ishmael and his country and family. The novel connected me to him and made me realize that I might not know myself as well as I think I do. Certain circumstances could change me into a completely different person. However, the novel showed me that even when you’re placed in the worst position(s) imaginable, there is always hope for a better day and a better self. What it means to be a human being is to know exactly this. No matter how drastically your current situation in life changes you, for the better or for the absolute worst, there is always that inner being that can return back to itself. Like Ishmael, after becoming a child soldier, lost himself many times throughout the story.  Even though it was nearly impossible, he persevered through the hard times afterward and regained his inner-self and found who he truly was again.

This novel has taught me that people are truly capable of surviving through some of the most difficult of times. They are capable of surviving through massacres of their own families, shortages of food, little to no sleep for months, and joining a child-based Army as Ishmael Beah experienced.

On the contrary, people are also capable of becoming absolute monsters. It is very scary to think about. In Ishmael’s circumstance, he was drugged up, brainwashed and forced to kill people in the child-based army. Some people can become truly horrifying beings without any of what Ishmael had to go through though usually there is an underlying psychological problem or traumatic event that made them the way they are.

Throughout this novel, I have discovered that people are capable of recovering from some seemingly unrecoverable experiences. Ishmael recovered from his family and many friends being massacred right before his eyes, killing other people (some of whom were probably innocent) watching children and people die in such cruel ways, becoming addicted to and then quitting hard drugs, and struggling himself to stay alive for many years. Although his past still haunts him, he lives everyday life and makes the most of it.

Ishmael’s story tells me about human nature can ironically be pure evil, selfish and cruel but can be compassionate and loving.

If I had been put in Ishmael’s position I would’ve not been able to survive mentally or physically. I would not have the will to live any longer after my family had been killed and that’s that. To be able to survive, you have to have a positive and hopeful attitude to keep you moving and that just wouldn’t possibly happen for me. Ishmael Beah is definitely one of the strongest people I’ve ever read about.

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