December 28, 2015
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
A Long Walk to Water
by Linda Sue Park
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
A Long Walk to Water combines two storylines.
First is the story of Salva Dut. When his village is attacked, Salva isn’t at home but in school in a nearby village. Because of this, he must undertake a journey across Sudan without his family. He’s told along the way that his village has been wiped out and he has no reason to doubt this since he is all alone.
Desert sun, thirst, starvation and bandits all take their toll on the refugees. And they take their toll on Salva — robbing him of his childhood. But they never take away his patience or his faith in humanity. Salva becomes a leader among the young men who make up a large proportion of the refugee population. This story line begins in 1985.
The second story line is contemporary. In it a young girl, Nya, must walk twice a day to the local water hole. This is what she does all day, every day, facing sun, thorns and loneliness. Add to this the fact that the water is not clean and it is easy to see how her younger sister grew sick after drinking contaminated water.
Nya’s life is consumed with walks to water and walks home carrying the heavy load. She worries that dirty water will make her sister sick, but it is the only water that they have until the day a group of men come to their village. The men are there to dig for water. The head of the crew? A man named Salva.
Salva’s story is true and Linda Sue Parks only decided to write this book after she met him. Although Nya’s story is fiction, it is strongly based on fact. Many girls in this part of the world must walk every day to draw water for their families. As they make this walk, they face not only loneliness but often danger. Still it is the only way that their families can live.
Park goes through great pains to create believable three-dimensional characters to bring this life to light for her young readers. Some of it is hard to read about but it is done in a way what is suitable for a middle grade audience. The story isn’t always an easy to one to take in but it is a reality that people in our country need to acknowledge.
This is a book that should have space on your bookshelf and in your reading time.