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Study Guide: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah: Book Summary

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FREE BOOK NOTES: A LONG WAY GONE - ISHMAEL BEAH

CHAPTER SEVEN

Summary

The attack on Kamator happens unexpectedly one night. There had been no rumors that the rebels were even close so they walk into the village unopposed. The people are all in the mosque at prayer, and when the news comes that the rebels are there, they all rise and walk quickly out of the mosque. The iman refuses to leave in the middle of a prayer and the rebels find him, bind his hands and feet, and burn him to death, because he refuses to tell them where the people are hiding. His body is left to rot in the square.

During the attack, Ishmael is separated from Junior and the other boys, and he has to run into the bush alone. Later, he hooks up with Kaloko, and they go to look for their friends. Unfortunately, they are nowhere to be found. So, the two boys stay in the swamp with a family they know for two weeks. During this time, Ishmael thinks about the possibilities which lay ahead. “Is there an end to this madness, and is there any future for him beyond the bushes?” He has lost everything, and he remembers when he and his family had first moved to Mogbwemo. His father had invited all the neighbors over to a ceremony to bless their new house. He stood up during the ceremony and said that he prayed to the gods and ancestors that his family will always be together. Now, they are all gone.


Every three days, Ishmael and Kaloko visit Kamator to see if any people have returned, but each visit is in vain. The village remains empty with no sounds or even footprints, and Ishmael makes sure to sweep his own prints every time he leaves. The last time the two boys visit, they see the imam’s body still hanging in the square, and now the dogs and the vultures tear at his body for food.

Ishmael becomes frustrated with living in fear and decides to leave in search of peace. Kaloko is too afraid to go along, so Ishmael loads his pockets with oranges and walks away. It feels to him like he has been wrapped in a blanket of sorrow. He begins to cry, and he sits on the side of the path until the tears are all gone. Then, once more, he sets off. For five days, he walks, never coming into contact and any human being. He sleeps in abandoned villages and makes his own fate by deciding every morning which way he will go. He collects oranges in each village and once feasts on a cassava farm. He also sees coconuts in nearly every village, but he just can’t climb those trees. Then, one day, he is very tired and hungry and before he knows what he is doing, he mounts the coconut tree as fast as he can. He climbs down just as quickly with the coconuts he has plucked. He snacks on the meat of the fruit and the milk and rests in a hammock he finds.

Once he is rested, he gets up and tries to climb the tree again, but is absolutely unable to do so, just like before. The realization of this makes him begin to laugh uncontrollably and he thinks he could have written a science paper on this experiment.

On the sixth day, he comes into contact with humans, a group of four young boys, two girls, a man, and a woman. They are swimming in the river, so Ishmael carefully approaches them. The man acts like he doesn’t understand the language Ishmael is using, but Ishmael knows he does. He questions the man about the fastest way to Bonthe, an island to the south, which is supposed to be the safest place in Sierra Leone. However, it is clear from his tone of voice that he doesn’t trust Ishmael. “Ishmael is glad to see other faces and at the same time disappointed that the war has destroyed the enjoyment of the very experience of meeting people.” He is also sad that he doesn’t know the name of most of the villages he passed through. It was not common then to place a sign that named the village, and there is never anyone there to tell him the name.

Notes

Ishmael is now truly alone. No one trusts him. There are no names for the places he passes through. The people have all disappeared.


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