The book A long way gone is a literary work that narrates the ordeals of a child-soldier in the hands of fate. The writer, Isheal Beah became a soldier at thirteen. As the enthralling story enfolds, he recounts his experience during and after the war. At twelve he had fled for the attacking rebels in his country, Sierra Leone into the streets turned insane by the violence of war. A year later he was converted to a soldier by the government’s army. This is where the heart-wrenching tale, a first class experience of a transformation from a young boy, with a tender heart to a killer boy begins.
He was exposed to all the undiluted vices of war. From drugs that they were given to strengthen them and the ammunitions they were given to kill themselves with. He was given an AK-47 much heavier then his hands could carry. One moment an innocent boy, the next moment a “killerboy”, capable of intense violence and terrible acts. Ishmeal tells his story with an unparallel truth bearing in mind other people’s feelings. Now twenty-six he looks back, down the memory lane at all he had been through, how he survived the war and how he survived his rehabilitation after the war.
For three years he fought in the war until he was removed by UNICEF. With the help of the organization, he received rehabilitation, a re-transitional process to his former self before the war. Haunted by the war’s experience, the war was over truly, but the war within Ishmeal’ heart continues. The rehabilitation experience was a story of self-war in itself, involving a self-forgiving process and a requisition of humanity long lost till eventually the final healing began to come. Ishmeal’s experience reminds us of all the wars across the globe and how children have become the easy choice for these wars.
With more than fifty wars going on, over 300,000 children have been converted to soldiers. All going through the trauma and hell that Ishmeal went through. The story fits into the trend of history in the twentieth century that was so full of African genocide, Gulf war and other wars around the world. The story also reminds us of the consequences of war, the unchecked genocide perpetrated by human to fellow humans and the effects of all these on several thousands of children and others, whose lives have been altered miserably by war.
Ishmeal’s story does this an alarming genuity and explicit emotional force. His experience is quite unique because he was not only a witness but also a victim. He saw and conquered. The story was written like a memoir which has not only added colour to the story but made it more unique, for he narrates them in first person that made it more gripping. His honesty is exacting, and a proof to the ability of children to outlive their sorrows and suffering, if given a chance.
From his recounts of the burning villages and total destruction to all, the story raises the question in all rationale minds… what do human gain from war? “My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven’t told them the full story of my life. ” “Why did you leave Sierra Leone? ” “Because there is a war. ” “Did you witness some of the fighting? ” “Everyone in the country did. ” “You mean you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other? ” “You should tell us about it sometime. ” “Yes, sometime. ”