The book begins relatively slow as Ishmael is describing his life before becoming a soldier. He thoroughly enjoys music specifically rap. Ishmael and his friends sing and dance at events for fun. While he is away from home performing in his rap group, his village is attacked. Once he returns he’s horrified about what has transpired and worried about the safety of himself, his friends and his family. Because of this horrid situation, Ishmael is forced to steal from children in order to survive, however, under normal circumstances it is safe to assume he wouldn’t have done that.
Once Ishmael is inducted into the military, he becomes a ruthless and merciless soldier. Him and his newfound military friends find themselves slaughtering the opposing rebel troops. However, due to them being under the influence of various drugs such as marijuana and a cocaine concoction known as “brown brown,” they do not care that they are mercilessly murdering other human beings. In fact, Ishmael was such an effective soldier that he was given the nickname, the “Green Snake”, for being able to stealthily attack the enemy from a hidden position.
Near the end of the book, it is evident that Ishmael is beginning to lose his humanity. However, him and many of his friends are taken to a rehabilitation hospital where Ishmael slowly begins to find comfort and open up to one of the nurses. He finds hope and believes that he can return to the person he once was.
This memoir focuses on the corruption of underdeveloped countries’ governments, how easily the military officers manipulated the children into joining the army, and the presence of extreme violence all over the world. A Long Way Gone is a mesmerizing and wrenching tale from the beginning to the end, and will evoke several different emotions in the reader. I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in nonfiction or learning about the arming of children.
Book Review by Areeb Ehtisham