A Long Way Gone

Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Narrated by: Ishmael Beah
Length: 7 hrs and 43 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,508 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This is how wars are fought now by children, hopped up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. In the more than 50 violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But it is rare to find a first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now 26 years old, tells a riveting story in his own words: how, at the age of 12, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By 13, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

©2007 Ishmael Beah (P)2007 Macmillan Audio

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Author's voice

What did you like best about this story?

I appreciated that the account was written and narrated by a boy with first-hand experience. He explains his fear and struggle for survival from his own experiences and you begin to understand, reluctantly, how an innocent child with such a big heart could perform such atrocities. You also learn that these tainted children, at least some of them, have the capacity for rehabilitation and the ability to attain happiness after such horrible experiences full of hatred and violence. His story makes you question humanity, but his survival and recovery will return hope and faith of the good in this world. This book makes you want to become an activist for the plight of these children and their families.

What about Ishmael Beah’s performance did you like?

I like that it was his story; it added to the narrative knowing it was his experiences he was telling you about.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It did get under my skin and I had a hard time not thinking about it when I was away.

13 people found this helpful

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Meaningful true story

My son and I listened to this when it was required reading in high school. It is a difficult book but I'm glad I heard the story. It was an important insight into what is happening in the world today.

Normally, I don't like author-narrators but this was one situation where I really appreciated hearing the author's voice.

Both my sons have listened to this book, and I think it is an important read for any teen or adult.

9 people found this helpful

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Fascinating and tragic story

If you could sum up A Long Way Gone in three words, what would they be?

Sad yet hopeful.

What did you like best about this story?

I like that he was able to be rescued from the life of child soldier and go on to present about these issues at the UN.

What does Ishmael Beah bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

It's his memories. One thing is when he signs some of the songs that made him happy as a kid, you can tell they still do.

4 people found this helpful

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Loved

This book was amazing. I read a lot and I've never read something like this!! I'm happy I Read It

3 people found this helpful

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An Eye-opening Read.

I am very glad to have opened myself up to the harsh reality that others have experienced. My life and the way I see things have truly changed.

3 people found this helpful

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Moving and important memoir

This is an excellent memoir, and an important one. However, I agree with other reviews that the ending is abrupt and leaves something to be desired. The author owed it to his audience to give us more information about his departure from Sierra Leone, and transition to his new life. Also, I read this book because it was assigned to my 8th grader. I do not feel this book is appropriate for this grade level. It is too explicitly violent and disturbing, and may even glamorize the use of drugs in this age group. I have expressed my concerns to my daughter's school. I recommend this book for high schoolers, but not middle schoolers.

4 people found this helpful

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captivating

this book speaks a truth that puts the reader in the war without being in the war. I am happy that Ishmael lived to share his story and so we can appreciate that the news does not do some stories justice.

1 person found this helpful

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Amazing Retell

Ishmael’s ability to retell his childhood story over a number of years in great detail is amazing. The story is just further evidence of how spoiled and blessed we are here in the states.
The story is really broken into 3 chunks:
1) Ishmael and his friends on the run from rebel fighters
2) Ishmael as boy soldier fighting against the Rebels
3) His journey through rehabilitation. This is really the most intriguing as it shows the boys lust for vengeance and evil after being brainwashed in it killing the rebels and seeking revenge. The rehabs team commitment to patiently loving them and being persistent is a really neat story.

1 person found this helpful

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Great Author, but...

Listening to this book was a real Struggle Bus experience. I love this story. My teenage students who have reading disabilities and hate books LOVE this story. Listening to Beah read his story killed it. And I don't mean in a good way! His voice is better heard reading the look than listening to it.

For those who want know exactly why - it's because he is so monotonous. There isn't a lot of variety in his voice. He does not change his voice pattern for the different characters, etc.

So, while this is a good read and I recommend getting your hands on a physical copy from the store or the local library, I would not recommend the audiobook.

1 person found this helpful

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Wow

Everyone has heard something about child soldiers. This is actually from one with all the gritty details that is just the truth of it. What Ishmael went through- as a kid...wow. Everyone should hear/read this book. For the education and other viewpoint of it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kiri S C Sakelaropoulos
  • 04-28-19

Immersive.

This book will give you knowledge, compassion and courage to face your challenges. It tells a story of events few of us can imagine and connects us with them through descriptions of emotions that we all share.

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  • Rachel
  • 02-15-17

Empathy

This deeply harrowing and personal book is made all the more emotional by the fact it is read by the author. The horrific nature of the experiences are poignant and unavoidable.

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  • Vicky Draper
  • 06-30-19

Hard to ignore

Loved this book. How can humans endure so much? How can humans inflict so much horror on others? This book goes some way to explain.

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  • Bridget Pearce
  • 09-05-16

Needs editing.

I chose to read this book with a senior literacy class and they couldn't get into it despite such pressing subject matter. It was terribly structured. Half way through my students doubted the authenticity of the story and found compelling articles from the Australian that totally discredit Beth's version of events. We felt cheated for sympathising with him. Sad, because I am sure Beah's story would be strong enough without gratuitous embellishments.

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  • Larissa
  • 01-17-16

Important story

What a life some people have!! Very sad at times but very much worth listening to!!

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  • Sian
  • 01-08-16

Incredible!

This book is profoundly evocative and hauntingly visceral. Estimates suggest that as many as 300,000 child soldiers are active in conflicts around the world. 40% of armed forces (including national armies, militias, gangs, terrorist organizations and resistance forces) in the world use children. Then there are the children killed in war zones or taken into slavery.

I am grateful beyond words to have never experienced war and I hope I remember this book when I want to complain about trivial things.

Peace to my Sierra Leonean friends who survived the civil war.

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  • Andrew
  • 10-14-14

Sad and inspiring story

I didn't know what to expect but I'm glad I listened to this audiobook. While it is such a sad story in so many ways, it is also a wonderfully inspiring story. And it was made all the more engaging being spoken by the author. There was much to take away from this book and I'd recommend it to any reader.