Few children can imagine walking eight hours a day or digging by hand deep into the mud, just to find water for their family. But the backbreaking work under the hot African sun is just a typical day for 11-year-old Nya, growing up in Sudan circa 2008. She rarely complains; it would do no good.
Salva, also 11, is from a prominent, upper-class Sudanese family. As the Second Sudanese Civil War erupts in the mid-1980s, Salva is forced to run as bombs hit his village. Fleeing quickly and leaving his family behind, he joins up with bands of strangers—all headed out of their war-torn homeland to Ethiopia.
Difficult as it may be, both Nya and Salva come to accept their own long walks to water—each peppered with challenges and each tied to family and survival. Nya’s sister becomes very ill; Salva loses several loved ones. But Newbery Award winner Linda Sue Park’s brilliant dual narrative provides a soulful insight into both journeys.
Both Salva and Nya are urged on by their individual reserves of hope—for a better tomorrow, a better future—but neither really knows what lies beyond. The book’s denouement, however, intertwines their stories in a soul-satisfying and optimistic way.
A Long Walk to Water is based on Salva Dut’s true story of perseverance amid adversity. But beyond that, it’s a touching narrative about strife and survival on a scale most American readers will never see.