Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, 2010.
A Long Walk to Water is about one man's story, Salva Dut - organizer of Water for Sudan, a nonprofit organization. The tale is written from two perspectives. Each chapter starts with part of Nya's day, a girl in Sudan who spends most of her day collecting water for the family. The greater part of the chapter is the story of how and why Salva arrived at his present day work.
Years ago, Salva's family also struggled with their water supply. His family (as well as Nya's) relocated for months of the year for access to water. During this relocation period, his tribe the Dinka often endured fighting with Nya's tribe the Nuer, over the territory. In the 1980s, a civil war erupted in Suda between the Northern Muslim leaders of the government and the Southern non-Muslim groups. Soldiers attack the village in which Salva goes to school, and he is forced to flee, hoping that he will meet family along the path the refugees trek. They first flee towards Ethiopia, then Kenya. After many years, Salva is chosen from a refugee camp to be a foster child in the United States. He works toward an education and goes back to Sudan to try to help his people.
Nya and Salva both walk for survival. Nya's walking is a never-ending routine for a family necessity. She looks forward to the off months when they are camping by the lake, because it gives her a break from the walking. Salva's walking is out of a desperate attempt at freedom and security, an attempt which lasts years before he experiences any of that security. Both of the young people exhibit strength and perseverance as they strive for a future. The two stories come full circle and mesh in the end.
The way that Salva chooses to help his people is an excellent enterprise. Considering that much of the fighting to which the tribes had been exposed was over rare sources of water, what better way to help than to decrease the rarity. It must have seemed like a miracle to the Sudanese people, and I like that he did not stop with just his village or area. I like that Salva's work is inspirational and mind-opening, and also that it is a true story.
Linda Sue Park takes a difficult issue and weaves a story that is horrifically, inexorably true, but in a matter of fact way that doesn't lose sight of the hope for a better future. It shows some of the desperation without it being too much for the reader (especially young ones) to bear. It cuts to the core of reality without being so ugly you cannot look, and it spotlights an example of real change in a world low on hope.
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