Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton
Soldier Boy is a wow. One of those books that everyone, from ages 12 on up, should read. It is our obligation as human beings to be aware that the events that occur in this book really happened and continue to happen. It is our responsibility as human beings to do what we can to stop it. That task can begin by reading this book and telling others about it. And that’s what I’m doing right now.
Soldier Boy is based on actual events that have been taking place in Uganda for decades. Children are kidnapped from their Ugandan villages and forced into slavery - the boys become soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army and the girls become sex slaves. The families of these children are often murdered, sometimes before the eyes of the children. Soldier Boy consists of two separate stories. One story takes place in 1989 and features a boy named Ricky. Ricky and his older brother, Patrick, are kidnapped. Their mother, father, and three little sisters are murdered and part of their home is burned to the ground. Ricky’s story details two of the years he was forced to soldier for the LRA. His terror, torture, hardship (barely eating, drinking dirty and parasite-infested water, repeatedly sustaining life-threatening injuries, etc., etc.), despair, and soul-crushing duties are beautifully and painfully described. As Ricky fights to stay alive and find an opportunity to escape, it is impossible for your heart not to break for him and the boys and girls like him in the story and in real life.
The second story is Samuel’s and it takes place in 2006 (but it could just as easily take place today). Samuel has just been rescued from the LRA after being left for dead. He is now in a type of recovery center for children who had been kidnapped by the LRA. The reader only learns a bit of Samuel’s struggles from his time in the LRA, but it isn’t necessary because his story is so similar to Ricky’s, to that of every other soldier boy. Instead, the reader learns of the efforts of a kind man in the rehab facility and his efforts to draw Samuel’s story out of him and earn his trust.
Both Samuel and Ricky’s stories merge beautifully at the end. And I mean, big, fat tears rolling down your face beautiful. It’s one of those catch your breath moments of reading that only happens every so often. I highly recommend listening to this audiobook which is perfectly narrated in an African accent. The afterword is both written and narrated by Ricky Anywar himself.