NOBODY WANTS TO BE ALONE and everyone wants to feel safe and secure, especially children. So what happens when a young child/boy is suddenly separated from his family? A LONG WALK TO WATER by Linda Sue Park based on the true story of one boy named Salva Dut from Southern Sudan.
CENTERED AROUND the Sudanese Civil War and its effects on the people physically and emotionally hurt by the ravages of war. The Northern-based Muslim government wanted all of the Sudanese people to practice Islam and the citizens in the south were of different denominations. One day eleven-year-old Salva’s school was attacked by rebel fighters and while he fled Salva was separated from his family. With nowhere to go, he begins a long walk with others towards a safe haven in Ethiopia . . . leaving all that he knows behind. Eventually, he would end up in America.
THIS RIVETING TALE OF TWO CHILDREN (Salva and Nya), from opposing Sudanese ethnic groups (Dinka and Nuer), decades apart (1985 and 2008) served as the backdrop for this true story. We are introduced to Nya, a young girl who has to walk eight hours a day (round trip) to fetch water for her family. No time for school, her formal education is learning how to run a household when she grows up. Salva travels with some of his fellow Dinka tribesman, which include his uncle and a new best friend, Marial. Two boys thick as thieves, a much-needed support system for each other.
EACH DAY (and night) BROUGHT ITS OWN challenge, along the way his best friend, Marial is whisked away in the middle of the night and eaten by a lion, as he slept inches from Salva. All that was left was drops of Marial’s blood. As the group almost reached Ethiopia his uncle is killed by renegade “soldiers.” His pain is unbearable . . . too much heartache.
THOUGHTS for your SOUL:
- “Building a well in a village meant that families didn’t have to move away from their village to find water during the dry season; therefore children could go to school year around.”
- “Family life was, in many instances structured around the availability of water.”
ALTHOUGH A LONG WALK TO WATER is written for 5th – 8th graders, the story was so well-written and engaging that readers of all ages would enjoy the book. Recounting Salva’s courage, he had no choice but to embrace the unknown or die, is more than any child should endure in one in one lifetime. He and so many other boys who unwillingly were initiated into the fraternity of “Lost Boys” . . . the name given to over 20,000 separated or orphaned boys by the refugee camp workers. Each had to grow up very quickly, each looked for sanctuary, each wanted a safe haven . . . many ended up in camps in Ethiopia, Kenya, and some were even chosen to live in America. All lives were changed forever.
AS AN ADULT you probably imagined the predictable ending, but it is still inspiring to read. Salva is “adopted” by an American family. Through an email he discovered that is father is alive, so he arranged to travel back to Sudan. After nineteen years he is reunited with his father who is in a hospital recovering, and soon after the rest of his family in the village of Loun-Ariik, where he grew up . . . Each thinking that the other was dead.
SALVA RETURNED TO THE UNITED STATES with a mission. His father was ill because he repeatedly drank contaminated water and he wanted to find a way to prevent his fellow Sudanese countrymen from suffering the same fate. Two people, two opposing ethnic groups, no longer trapped in the past, yet connected by the one thing that is necessary for survival, yet many take for granted – clean water.
FOR ONE LITTLE GIRL HER WISH CAME TRUE – no more walking eight hours to a pond to fetch water. For one young man being able to fulfill that wish for her and many others. “A coincidence is a small miracle where God chose to remain anonymous” – Heidi Quade.
Let’s BOND over BOOKS rates A LONG WALK TO WATER as EASY & ENGAGING (150 pages or less) . . . straight-forward, light and to the point.
*Originally posted on September 23, 2015; however, slight revisions have been made to this version.