The six boys walk for several days on a tiny path walled in on each side by thick bushes. They find little to eat along the way, but Ishmael, who is filled with memories of his family and worried about how his brother and his friends are too quiet, is just too hungry to cry. They sleep in abandoned villages on the ground and eat raw cassava when they can find it. In one village they find banana, orange, and coconut trees and Khalilou, being the best climber, brings down the fruit. Although the bananas need boiled, because they are too raw, the coconuts and oranges help fill the emptiness in their stomachs. However, they need something substantial to eat, so they have no choice but to sneak back into Mattru Jong to find the money Ishmael left behind.

When the boys arrive at the town, they move on tiptoe very fast and as cautiously as they can. They see rebels in the town and guarding the outskirts, but they finally get to Khalilou’s house. Like all the other houses in the town, it has been looted with broken furniture, bottles, and empty cigarette packages everywhere. Fortunately, the rebels had not found Ishmael’s money, hidden in a plastic bag at the foot of the bed. They immediately head back to the swamp.

The boys gather with other people who have temporarily returned to sneak back out of the town. They crawl on their bellies three at a time through a clearing with dead bodies everywhere around them. Someone accidentally loses something that clinks against an aluminum pot. This brings gunfire from rebels guarding the perimeter of the town, and Ishmael fears they will all be killed. However, gunfire breaks out in another direction, so the rebels leave to check out the new sounds. This allows the boys time to escape. One strange boy carries a sack of goods that weigh him down, and Ishmael tells him to drop it while they are running. The boy refuses and when they reach the first crowded village from Mattru Jong, the boy is not there.


Ironically, when the boys head immediately to the market place to buy some cooked food, the cooked-food vendors have ceased their labors, perhaps to save it for themselves. After all the trouble and risk they had undertaken to get the money, it is now useless. This is a typical aspect of war: things change rapidly and no one has control over anything. The boys at this point have yet to learn this and how to implement survival tactics and that’s what it comes down to. That night they are so hungry they steal food from sleeping people as the only way to get through the night.


This chapter reveals six boys in a desperate condition. They are starving and there is no food anywhere. Because this is the situation when war exists, the boys begin to adapt to their new lives by becoming what they might never have become before. They steal and they never stop to help others for it might mean the loss of their own lives.

Awards & Recognition

A Long Way Gone was named one of the Top 10 Nonfiction books of 2007 by Time Magazine.
It was nominated for a Quill Award in the Best Debut Author category in 2007.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".