Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

I've been reading young this fall.  It seems that the randomizer by which I lazily choose my reading has been skewing toward YA surprisingly often this year, and I've rather been enjoying having my reading seasoned with YA again.  It helps too, that I finally did Dewey's Readathon again this October, which lends itself to YA reading.

The Readathon was a golden opportunity to finally dig into Linda Sue Park's A Long Walk to Water.  This one slipped into my collection on the occasion of my very first BEA and has been woefully neglected ever since.  A Long Walk to Water is a mere 115 pages (making it an ideal Readathon book), but it packs a punch.

Park tells, side by side, the stories of two young characters, Salva, a young boy in 1980s Southern Sudan, forced to run for his life when the war against the northern government comes to his village, and Nya, a young girl in nearly present day Sudan whose life is defined by her endless walks to and from a distant pond to supply her family with precious and hard to come by water.  When gunshots ring out near Salva's school, his teacher rushes the kids out the door insisting that they must not return to their villages and potential slaughter but flee into the bush alone.  What follows is Salva's perilous journey among strangers across dangerous terrain to the safety of an Ethiopian refugee camp.  Nya's village struggles to find fresh water that won't sicken people, but it's becoming more and more difficult, until strangers arrive in her village with an unexpected gift.

A Long Walk to Water is a short book, but a weighty one based on the true story of Salva Dut's terrifying childhood in his war-torn native country.  It digs into the harsh realities of war in Sudan caused by both rebellion against the northern government that wants to force its Islamic beliefs on the whole nation and the dangerous animosity between the rival tribes of the south.  Salva's story is both heartbreaking and often hopeless, but his refusal to give up and his coming of age under impossible circumstances are ultimately inspirational.   Nya's story seems almost out of place, at first, highlighting the practical implications of living in an area where struggling to survive is forced to be the top priority, but the dual stories come together to offer a touching and pitch perfect ending.

What's a short book that you have read that has had a big impact?


  1. That sounds outstanding. Great short books are hard to come by.

  2. I found this one very impacting as well. It's an easy read length-wise, but not subject wise. And I agree, it's absolutely pitch perfect.