Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lost Boys of the Jungle Guns

On the way to a talent show for students, Ishmael Beah, his brother and four other friends find themselves separated from their families forever as war breaks out in Sierra Leone. For the next four years Ishmael travels the jungles of his country, carrying an AK-47 and suffering migraines and jangled nerves from the marijuana and cocaine he ingests instead of food. He has become an emotionless killer, a tiny robot soldier with no memory of childhood, A Long Way Gone from the life had known. A UN team negotiates his release, along with a few others, from the guerrilla army he has called "family" and tries to rehabilitate Ishmael. But the violence of he past four years is too ingrained and Ishmael and his comrades fight with other boys who have been "discharged" from their armies. After a painful drug withdrawal process, Ishmael begins to experience all those emotions and activities that kept him tied to his world. But just as Ishmael is about to join a family and begin again to live with people who love him, the war finds Ishmael again and he must take drastic measures to avoid the harsh and violent life he has escaped and seek out a new life in another country. Readers may be shocked at the level of brutal violence present in Ishmael's story. Yet the author tells his harrowing tale unapologetically and simply. Readers who wish to read further on this subject may enjoy God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau and Measuring Time by Helon Habila.

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