Beasts Of No Nation
by Iweala, Uzodinma






Recruited by a unit of guerrilla fighters after the brutal murder of his father by militants, a west African student falls under the spell of his dangerous commander and finds his new life increasingly contrasting with his former existence of family times, school friendships, and church services. A first novel. 30,000 first printing.





/*Starred Review*/ "I am not bad boy. I am not bad boy. I am soldier and soldier is not bad if he is killing." Set in an unnamed West African country, Iweala's first novel shows civil war from a child's viewpoint. After his mother and sister escape and his father is killed, the traumatized young narrator is discovered by guerrilla fighters. Frightened and alone, he joins the men, becoming a soldier in an impoverished army of terror headed by a charismatic and treacherous leader who tells his young followers that killing "is like falling in love. You cannot be thinking about it." Writing in the boy's West African English, Iweala distills his story to the most urgent and visceral atrocities, and the scenes of bloodshed and rape are made more excruciating by the lyrical, rhythmic language. In the narrator's memories of village life, biblical stories, and creation myths, Iweala explores the mutable separation between human and beast and a child's struggle to rediscover his own humanity after war: "I am some sort of beast or devil," the boy says, "But I am also having mother once, and she is loving me." Readers will come away feeling shattered by this haunting, original story. ((Reviewed September 1, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.





This astonishing debut by a gifted 23-year-old American of Nigerian ancestry tracks an African child soldier's descent into hell. Resilient but terrified, Little Agu is a wide-eyed, preteen boy thrown among the demented and the depraved. At the start, in an unspecified West African country, he's being dragged out of a shack in the bush and beaten by another child. There are trucks, and soldiers in rags. They offer Agu food and water and the chance to be a soldier. Agu accepts (as if he had a choice). He has lost his loving, close-knit family. His mother and sister were evacuated by the UN, and his schoolteacher father was shot before his eyes. Agu inherited their Christian and animist beliefs; the smartest kid in his one-room school, he loved to read the Bible. Now he must kill. It's not so hard if you're high on "gun juice." Explains Agu: "They are all saying, stop worrying. Stop worrying. Soon it will be your own turn and then you will know what it is feeling like to be killing somebody. Then they are laughing at me and spitting on the ground near my feets." Agu comes across a mother and daughter and butchers them with his knife. He wants to be a good soldier, yet he is fearful of being a "bad boy"-and there is no way to resolve the contradiction. Agu is always tired, always hungry, and his ordeal stretches into the night when he is used as a sex toy and sodomized. There are no pitched battles, just these ragtag rebels killing and plundering. Iweala writes with great restraint, mindful that the most important battle is for a boy's soul: Redemption is possible, even if a return to innocence is not. The outrageous conscription of children has its own heartbreaking lament. Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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