Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Thanks to the 21st century constantly-changing news cycle, this seems like old news now, but I picked up this book shortly after Southern Sudan's referendum vote for independence. Auspicious timing, since A Long Walk to Water is about one boy's experiences during the outbreak of the civil war 26 years ago - and how that boy has gone on to influence and improve others' lives.

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True StoryA Long Walk to Water tells two parallel stories, one in 1985 and the other in 2008. In 1985, Salva, becomes one of Sudan's "lost boys" as fighting breaks out near his school one day and he is forced to run into the bush, not knowing whether any of his family has escaped the terrible fighting. He joins other ragtag groups of refugees, constantly seeking safety and shelter.

In 2008, the fighting doesn't affect Nya, but she has her own hardships. It is her job to fetch water for her family, making the hours-long trek twice daily to try to keep her family supplied with fresh water.

This is a very slim book with spare writing that nevertheless does an impeccable job of conveying the hardships and horrors of living in Sudan in 1985, at the outbreak of their civil war, as well as the difficulties in contemporary Sudan of obtaining a basic need like clean water.

I often say that I most love books where the ending feels like merely an ending to this part of the story, but the characters have lives that go on. I don't think I've found a more powerful example of that than A Long Walk to Water - where Nya's opportunities are about to grow in ways she can barely fathom, all thanks to the installation of a well in her village.

The only downside of the length of the book is that I wanted moremoremore. Sometimes less can be more, but this is such a unique story, especially with the parallel stories of Salva in 1985 and Nya in 2008, that I craved more information about their lives.
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