Don’t go by the book size; this one is a bomb. The brutality people can inflict on other people will shatter you and put you right back together by the kindness that blossoms even in such mad times. The memoirs of Ishmael are haunting with all the human disfigurement and bereavement. The story is told with clarity and honesty, and with a pain the boy feels at seeing his country painted red.

“Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them. Under these stars and sky I used to hear stories, but now it seemed as if it was the sky that was telling us a story as its stars fell, violently colliding with each other. The moon hid behind cloouds to avoid being what was happening.”

Ishmael loses his family when rebels attack his village. He then walks hundreds of miles, passing one village after another; some ravaged by war already or hostile to him due the ill fame of child soldiers. He is recruited by the army as a child soldier and motivated to fight the rebels that bereaved him from his loved ones; he becomes the perpetrator of mindless cruelty and butchery, elevated by an overdose of cocaine, brown-brown and kill fest movies.

After two years, he was luckily rescued to a rehabilitation centre for child soldier. Through diligent care, understanding and counselling he was set on his way to a normal childhood. He was chosen to represent Sierra Leone at a UN meet to convey the situation of child soldier. He had a strong message to send across.

“ ‘We can be rehabilitated’, I would emphasize, and point to myself as an example. I would always tell people that I believe children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance.”

Finally Ishmael leaves his country at the age of seventeen, as the rebels reach Freetown, capital of the country. He fled from meeting the same fate of being a child soldier again and went through some gruesome immigration, before reaching America. He is actively striving to bring around changes in the lives of child soldier now. This memoir of a child soldier is one of a kind; from a person with firsthand experiences and coming through such brutality with compassion and an open smile on his face. This book demands to be read.

My Verdict