Study Guide: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah: Book Summary|
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A LONG WAY GONE: ONLINE BOOK SUMMARY / NOTES
That evening, the food is brought to the village square and everyone eats and dances. The women sing of all the gossip, dramas, and fights that had happened that year and Ishmael wonders if they will be able to sing about all that will happen by the end of the war. He also wonders why these villagers are so kind to them when other villages had chased them away or threatened their lives. However, he stops dwelling on why when the people continue to greet them with nothing but blessings. The villagers even invite the boys to dance with them, but gradually they stop as if they all know that they can be happy only for a brief moment. Then, they leave, moving on to the next village.
The next village is very peculiar in that there is only one large house with a nearby kitchen. It was used for some kind of production of palm oil. They settle in for the night where Musa insists on telling the story of Bra Spider. This story is an explanation for why spiders have thin waists and they all have heard it many times growing up. They all then look for some moments of sleep. Ishmael canít seem to find it and instead remembers his grandmother telling him all about his name giving ceremony. When she would relate how his father held him in the air for the entire village to see, he would think about how he had become a member of the community and was owned and cared for by all.
The boys had left their smoked meat outside the hut on the veranda, but when they awake, it is gone. They see a dog in the distance and chase it, but it backs up in a threatening manner, holding onto whatís left of the meat for itself. They have to give up the chase, but they wonder if they should have killed the dog and eaten it. It is a sign of how desperate their situation really is. They are forced to rummage the bushes for any fruit they can find.
Ishmael now takes the time to relate where all the boys were when the attack on Mattru Jong took place. It reinforces the confusion and tragedy of families being separated and forever lost. They continue walking now mostly at night. It feels as if they are walking with the moon. It follows them behind the clouds and waits for them at the end of dark forests. However, its brightness becomes dull as the nights pass and the shooting stars seem to be the moon weeping. It is as if the sky is telling them a story as the stars fell, violently colliding with each other while the moon hid behind the clouds to avoid seeing what is happening. Later, when they are walking during the day, a crow suddenly just falls out of the sky. They quickly pick it up and prepare to cook it even though they fear it is a curse or a sign of bad luck. That night, the dark seems too dark and they suddenly hear footsteps coming the other way as they are starting across a bridge of sticks. Quickly, they find hiding places while they watch three people come across tentatively as if they sense the boysí presence. Finally, the strangers leave and the boys come out from where they have been breathlessly laying. All except Saidu. He doesnít answer when they call out to him. He just lies there saying nothing and not moving. Time passes and dawn arrive, but still Saidu lies there with sweat on his forehead and his mouth slightly open. They know they cannot leave him, but they also know they must move on. So Kanei picks him up on his back and they cross the bridge. Just as they get across, Saidu begins to cough and when they want to allow him to rest, he insists they keep going. Musa notes that he awoke from the dead with a real attitude!
At midday, they arrive at a very crowded village. They are shocked at
how noisy it is in the middle of a war. As they walk through it, they
see some familiar faces and one woman insists she knows Ishmael. She says
she has seen Junior just a few weeks before and he had been looking for
Ishmael. She also says that she saw his mother, father, and little brother
in the next village, just two daysí walk away. So, they decide to spend
the night in that village and leave the next morning. They steal a pot
of rice and cassava leaves and then lay down to sleep. However, Ishmael
canít sleep once more. He is shaking and he has a feeling something bad
is going to happen. Then, the dogs begin to howl and run from one end
of the village to the other. Their howls wake up Alhaji, who says that
something must be wrong, but he soon falls back asleep. When they awake
in the morning, Alhaji and Ishmael begin waking their other friends, but
once again Saidu doesnít answer. This time, however, he isnít just in
a trance, but really dead. They wash and prepare his body for burial immediately,
because in this village, the dead are not allowed to be kept unburied
overnight. So they leave Saidu behind and as they try to sleep one more
night, Ishmael finds himself calling out his friendsí names all night
long to make sure they havenít died as well. He feels as if they have
no control over their future. They only know how to survive.
Saiduís prediction about how he will die comes true in a bizarre way. He seems
to die twice after the bad omen of the dead crow and it devastates Ishmael
even as he feels happiness that his family is to be found in the next
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".
. 10 May 2008