“One thing about being lonesome is that you think too much, especially when there isn’t much else you can do.”
Genre: Fiction, Memoir
Published: February 13th, 2007
Rate: 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
A first-person account, told by a 25-year-old veteran of the Sierra Leone conflict, this title is a heartbreaking, honest and important memoir about the horrors of war and the lost innocence of the youthful combatants.
Trigger warning: Rape, extreme violence, drug abuse
From reading the blurb alone I knew I was in for a ride with A Long Way Gone. Ishmael starts off with a little backstory of his life before the war. And what a joyous one it was! You could feel it through the pages as he talks about his family, friends and love for rap music.
Ishmael’s life takes huge about turn which as a reader left me shaken. The way he accounts his encounters with the rebels, trying to survive is so open and raw you’d think you’re there.
“To survive each passing day was my goal in life.” He says.
His transition from running from the war to joining is in one word, horrific! From his recruitment, then introduction to drugs (heroine, cocaine, painkillers ) to his addiction is chilling. Borderline scary. Young boys turned into killing machines. At some point I had to close my book, put it away and try to process what I was reading.
“We had not only lost our childhood in the war, but our lives had been tainted by the same experiences that still caused us great pain and sadness.”
Life finally looks up for him but not before going through another war, and reading his account trying to stay reformed and not giving in to what he had come to accept as second nature, fighting, had me going through so many emotions. Anger, sadness, fear, remorse… a whole rollercoaster of emotions.
By the time I finished reading the book I was left in wonder with so many unanswered questions… here you have young boys robbed off their innocence and turned into killing machines, fighting without knowing why. The lucky ones got rehabilitated. But after such an experience, life, how do you still maintain your humanity? Do you really come from it?
A Long Way Gone was part of my Nonfiction November tbr. A rather chilling book with such detailed horrific accounts. Yet brilliantly written. If it’s a book you think you can handle, I highly recommend.