Ishmael Beah Recounts War and Rescue in His Memoir ‘A Long Way Gone’


Natalie Green

Kate Kueter ’21 holds the book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.

Kate Kueter, Video Editor

“Some people tried to hurt us to protect themselves, their family, and their communities…This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy.” 

I have not read many non-fiction books, especially not memoirs. A memoir is difficult to critique; I cannot say I would have liked this to happen instead of that, or it would have been more powerful to add an interaction between these two people. I can only comment on the style of the writing and the structure of the story. Keeping that in mind, the writing style was exactly what captivated me. Not only did Ishmael Beah create a heart-wrenching story, but he also kept me, as a reader, engaged in every line. I find this level of storytelling and willingness to tell their story rare, especially among 27-year-olds. 

Parts of the story took longer to get through than I would have liked. But I do love the level of detail and description the author gave when describing the results of violence. It made the unimaginable experience much easier to picture as someone who has not experienced anything close to the level of violence Ishmael describes. 

The overall arch of Ishmael was impressive to follow. He started as a young innocent boy, aware of his surroundings, to a victim of violence, to a creator of violence, and finally a victim again with remorse and multiple forms of PTSD. He took us along on his journey and did not leave anything for us to interpret or guess the result of. 

I would not have picked up this book if it weren’t for a class, and I still will not willingly read memoirs with these themes, but I still appreciate the purpose of the book. Everyone should learn about other cultures. This book has the ability to influence people to stand up and try to change the world and affect others.  Ishmael could have written this memoir for many reasons. Because he wanted to educate others about the war in Sierra Leone and other child soldiers. Or because he needed to write about his experiences as a way to move past them. Either way, the effect the story will have on others is still profound. I need to warn that this book is not for the light-hearted. It is filled with real horrors that you can never unimagine. But with that in mind, this book was an eye-opening experience.