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A Long Way Gone: Chapters 9-10 October 15, 2007

Posted by Michelle in A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael B.


1. Michelle - October 15, 2007

Do you really think that lady saw Junior and Ishmael’s parents? Do you think they are still alive?

2. heatherelle - October 15, 2007

I love how Beah describes seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, or should I say, hearing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time! “…we started hearing something like the roar of big engines, the rolling of metal drums on a tar road, a thunder exploding, roll after roll…I had seen parts of the ocean but had never stood at the shore of one this vast. It spread out beyond the vision of my eyes. The sky was at its bluest and seemed to curve down and join with the ocean in the distance. My eyes widened, a smile forming on my face. Even in the middle of the madness there remained that true and natural beauty, and it took my mind away from my current situation as I marveled at this sight.”

Was anyone else cringing and feeling sympathy twinges in their feet when he described walking barefoot on hot sand all day? Ugh! That was terrible.

I was thinking how bittersweet it must have been for him to remember his name-giving ceremony, because the description of it is so community-oriented. Everyone took ownership and participated. He even says of the conclusion: “My mother passed me to my father, who raised me high above the crowd before passing me around to be held by everyone present. I had become a member of the community and was now owned and cared for by all.” Now he doesn’t have his family or his community, and he’s constantly on the run from one village to the next. Instead of being cared for, he’s being chased away.

And to answer your question, Michelle, I was hopeful that the lady really had seen Ishmael’s family, and that it wasn’t just a ruse to get the boys to move on out of that village!

3. Michelle - October 15, 2007

I was glad that when he found the ocean he felt safe enough to play and laugh again. When he talks about the times they are able to laugh, I feel this huge sense of relief. Like they’ll still be ok.

Their feet- yes Heather! Ugh. I couldn’t imagine. I was so grateful that they were met with kindness so they could heal their heels. (hehe, couldn’t resist).

4. catherine - October 17, 2007

Yes, that was pretty gross about their feet. Totally agree. Funny, Meesh. 🙂

I was very skeptical about that lady too. Seems too good to be true.

On page 70 his friend, Saidu, says: “How many more times do we have to come to terms with death before we find safety?…. Every time people come at us with the intention of killing us, I close my eyes and wait for death. Even though I am still alive, I feel like each time I accept death, part of me dies. Very soon I will completely die and all that will be left is my empty body walking with you. It will be quieter than I am.”…. Beah continues: “Tears formed in my eyes and my forehead became warm, thinking about what Saidu had said. I tried not to believe that I too was dying, slowly, on my way to find safety.”

This was so touching and sad. I felt so sorry for these kids. In order to cope with the trauma their minds are becoming numb. Without parents guiding them through this or anyone to protect them, they are left defenseless and start losing their sensitivity to things – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or what??

Longing for safety… Funny, but I keep finding myself praying, “Jesus, save them!”

Is anyone else finding themselves hardening as they continue reading? In the first chapters I was so horrified at the events, but as the story progresses I am becoming desensitized to the violence…

5. Michelle - October 17, 2007

Yes Cith – I was struck my Saidu’s comments too. I meant to highlight that. Very profound. And then to have him pass on so soon after saying that. Ugh!

About being desensitized… I think I was the other way around. I read it initially a bit detached but now, as I’m getting to know Ishmeal more, I’m becoming more affected by his journey. Interesting…

6. heatherelle - October 17, 2007

Catherine, I think I’m like you, finding myself more desensitized to the violence as the book goes on. I don’t know if it’s just that the initial shock has worn off, or if it’s because I’m drawn into his story and I want to find out what happens to him next, so I’m not as focused on the violence. I do know that in the beginning, I had to keep putting the book down and reading something more frivolous for a while, especially after the shooting of the baby. Now I’m to the point where I am just so curious as to how he gets out of his situation, that I’m willing to keep reading even when it gets violent.

7. Ashleigh - October 18, 2007

Michelle, I’m experiencing a similar reaction to what you described. Instead of becoming desensitized, I’m finding the heartache and violence more and more difficult to handle.

I thought it was interesting how he took the time to point out the good moments in the midst of all the horrible. He says in chapter 10, “Even though our journey was difficult, every once in a while we were able to do something that was normal and made us happy for a brief moment.” It tells something about him and his personality/outlook that he’s still able to identify the tiny moments of good in the bad, rather than only dwelling on the negative.

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