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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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Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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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.

5 of 5 people found this review 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.

3 of 3 people found this review 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

2 of 2 people found this review 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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Intense, but not intense enough

This is a story of a 12 year old boy’s life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. The writing is first person and author narrated, but did not strike me as intensely personal, or brutally honest, or deeply introspective. It effectively tells the story of how a normal kid becomes a killer, and then returns to some level of normalcy. If you are not familiar with the issue of child soldiers, this book is an excellent introduction.

I expect quite a lot from a memoir. In this case I heard the author’s intense story, but I also felt the author held back the very worst and the potentially most powerful. It is completely understandable for a young man (now 26) to be unready to express the fullness of the story, but a memoir should await that readiness.

The narration is good, but a bit dry and in a very few places difficult to understand.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the issues surrounding child soldiers, but as a memoir, or as literature, I found it weak.

There is an appendix dryly recapping the history of Sierra Leone which seemed a pretty odd way to end a memoir.

8 of 11 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Read

Where does A Long Way Gone rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

A Long Way Gone is among the top 20 Audiobooks I've heard.

What other book might you compare A Long Way Gone to and why?

Pertaining to the corrupt use of power and the effects of agency I would say Killing Pablo was another captivating book describing evil.

Which character – as performed by Ishmael Beah – was your favorite?

Nurse Esther was the most inspiring character who brought Ishmael back through love.

1 of 1 people found this review 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.

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greatest story told<br />

this book is great talks a lot about story's from the narrators past and how he's grown

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Revealing and heartbreaking

It was great to hear the story told in the author's own voice. There are long flashbacks and flash forwards that sometimes create a disorientation of the timeline of events, but that maybe intentional. Occasionally the author reveals how a situation will end before he tells the story, which takes away some of the suspense and makes the story more tragic. I also felt like the telling of the author's redemption or rehabilitation was somewhat superficial or simplified, and makes me question if the author really had a change of heart by the end of the book.

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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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  • 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.