Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A humbling read

This seems to be the year that I am finding more books that move me.

There are some books out there that are "technical" good reads because they are well written, regardless of whether or not you really liked the book (for me, that would be something like A Fine Balance because it was well written, but I can't say I am jumping up and down with excitement from the experience) and then there are the "good reads" because you flip the pages as quickly as you can (like Riptide, or some of the crime novels that I read). Then there are the good reads which aren't necessarily perfect, but they move you, or humble you, or cause you to think about something you have never considered before, or they open your eyes, or cause you to appreciate some element of life just a little more. I just finished one of those books.

Last year I watched an interview on the morning news with a fellow named Ishmael. He was a child soldier from Sierra Leone, and I remember just how compelling his story seemed to be. I have wanted to read his story for a long time, and I had a "moment" and realized it was probably at the library where I work, rather than waiting to buy (or remember to buy it).

Well, it was a moving story, one that shattered a few conceptions that I had. It is called A long way gone and it is a worthy read (an autobiography) to even just have a glimmer of what happened out there, and what these kids went through. Ishmael tells his tale in a way that lays it all out there, the good, the bad and the ugly. He doesn't hide behind words, or mince words, and there were times I had to put the book down and take it all in. It is a terrible story in many ways, and yet one that contains hope. I would recommend it as a read, although not one if you want a light and fluffy escapist book. This isn't it. So much of what happens in his young life, I couldn't imagine. His tale also reminds of how resilient humans can be when given the chance, but how hard of a struggle it truly can be to do so.

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