A Long Walk to Water

Based on the remarkable true story of Salva Dut, this novel tracks the lives of two Sudanese children with more than 20 years separating their stories – each of them affected by the ongoing difficulties faced by their war-torn country. In 2008 we meet Nya, a fictionalised eleven-year-old character of the Nuer tribe who makes an arduous barefoot journey twice daily to a distant pond to get water for her family. Salva, is an eleven-year-old boy of the Dinka tribe, enemies of the Nuer people. He is a Lost Boy of the Sudanese Conflict of the 1980s, forced to flee his village for fear of being killed or conscripted to fight in the war. He, like thousands of others, crossed the harsh landscape of east Sudan into Ethiopia and later Kenya in search of refuge. Nya and Salva’s lives will later intersect in a moving act of bravery and forgiveness.

This tale of war and survival is recounted in a simple, pared back, factual manner, revealing the astonishing heroism and perseverance of people such as Salva in the face of such cruel hardship and injustice. ‘One step at a time…one day at a time. Just today – just this day to get through…’ is a mantra often repeated by Salva as he continues steadfastly on his incredible journey.

This historical fiction novel is the perfect book for a Junior Cycle class to engage with important themes such as war, displacement, security and freedom.