Book Review "A Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah

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 The novel A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, is a memoir about himself, sharing his harrowing experience as a child growing up and his struggle for survival in Sierra Leone. The unthinkable happened in his village, Mattru Jong. The civil war occurred out of nowhere driving families to split apart, to never see each other again; fathers were shot, women were assaulted and children were dictated to partake in war. Disobeying orders from the commander and second-guessing costs the lives of numerous children and would be shot without feeling remorse. Children were dehumanized and lost all morals and sense of right and wrong. Ismael displays his optimism on his journey, believing to reunite with his family someday and the hope that they are alive and safe. He triumphs through many obstacles and deterrents throughout his journey. The foremost excruciating thing to ever happen is to be separated from family; memories start to blur, the unconditional, pure love of a family inevitably fades into thin air and is forgotten. In addition, the loss of family sprung lustful vengeance, inflicting the hero to act blindly out of revenge. Furthermore, to experience warmth and love, one ought to forgive themselves and accept the cruelty and injustice in the world, otherwise, you will be stuck in one spot forever. Therefore, the loss of family leads to lustful vengeance, as a result, Ismael’s innocence was supplanted by both fear and enmity. To prevail over revenge, one must experience love and forgiveness to give up your justified right for revenge and to stride forward in life.

Ishmael Beah has undergone various hardships and breaks the unbreakable barriers that were shouldered upon him. As the only survivor in his family, he feels cursed because he believes no one will cherish him and loses the hope to live. After being rescued and brought to safety, he was this close to reuniting with his family, however, he never got the chance to see them as the rebels struck, Ishmael sobs “I wanted to see my family, even if it meant dying with them” (96). Ishmael would rather see his family one last time, and be together one last time, even if it meant that he would give up his life. To continue, now in Benin Home, he is still haunted by the horrific things that happened throughout the years serving the army as a child soldier. “I would try desperately to think about my childhood, but I couldn’t. The war memories had formed a barrier that I had to break to think about any moment in my life before the war.” (149)

He has been trained to fight, kill, and survive without experiencing love in those years. Finally, having broken through his own barriers, he begins to trust nurse Esther, restoring his sense of family and recalls fragments of memories exchanged with his family, and openly discusses it with the nurse. Beah remembers this connection and seeks to make himself whole again starting by forgiving himself.

Ishmael Beah’s lust for revenge is brought upon and he stays alive so that the deaths of his family were not in vain, which ultimately led to joining the army. Lieutenant Jabati manipulates these boys including Beah who are devastated by the loss of their parents.“Over and over in our training, he would say that same sentence: Visualize the enemy, the rebels who killed your parents, your family, and those who are responsible for everything that has happened to you.” (112) The rebels are blamed for the death of Ishmael’s family, and his soldiering is motivated by his desire for revenge. His bloodthirsty nature is heavily influenced by drugs and the words from the Liutenetant he idolizes and respects. However, the Lieutenant uses their helplessness and rage and channels it towards destroying the enemy. Turning innocent, impressionable children into killing tools that can be replaced at any time.

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Book Review “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah. (2021, July 15). WritingBros. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from
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