A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Summary and Analysis of Chapter 18


Beah confesses to Esther that he feels he has nothing to live for, since his family is gone. She tells him to consider her his sister, which he agrees to so long as he adds the qualifier “temporary” to the title. When Esther laughs, it reminds Beah of a girl named Abigail, whom he had known briefly in secondary school. He wishes Abigail and Esther were the same person, so that they would have a shared past to connect them better.

Visitors from the European Commission, the UN, and UNICEF arrive the next day to meet the boys and look at the center. Mr. Kamara, the director of the center, greets the men and has the boys assembled to put on a talent show for the visitors. Beah reads a monologue from Julius Caesar and then performs a hip-hop play about a former child soldier that he has written himself. His performance at the talent show garners the attention of both the visitors and Mr. Kamara, who asks Beah to become the spokesperson for the center. While Beah belives Kamara is overstating the his charisma, he agrees. Two weeks later, he begins a series of presentations decrying the state of child soldiers, describing how it must be stopped, and encouraging his audiences that child soldiers can be rehabilitated - pointing to himself as an example.

Six months into his time at the center, Beah is surprised by the arrival of his childhood friend Mohamed. The boys quickly renew their friendship and begin to spend time together at the center from that point on.

The next month, Leslie arrives with the news that Beah has reached the point where he can be returned to normal society (“repatriated,” as Leslie calls it) with a foster family. Since UNICEF cannot locate any of Beah’s biological family, a foster family seems to be the only option. Beah recalls to Leslie an Uncle Tommy whom his father had sometimes spoken of, but whom he has never met. It happens that Uncle Tommy lives in the city. Leslie takes the information Beah has given him to continue his search, despite the fact that Beah is not optimistic that he will find a living relative.

Later, Leslie brings Beah’s uncle to visit him at the center. The older man greets Beah with great affection and even begins to weep. Despite Beah’s protest that he does not know the man, Uncle Tommy replies “…we cannot go back. but we can start from here. I am your family and that is enough for us to begin liking each other”(p. 172). Beah’s uncle promises to visit every weekend and anticipates the day when Beah can return with him to his home to meet his aunt and their children. Beah is pleasantly surprised that his uncle keeps his word and visits every week; the two go on long walks and get to know one another.

One weekend, Uncle Tommy takes Beah to visit his wife and children. Beah’s greets the boy as her “son,” just as his uncle had, and introduces him to their children - actually the children of family members whom the couple has raised as their own. Beah later learns that his grandfather had had many wives and that he has many more relatives than he had ever known about.


Beah’s fortunes take a turn toward improving greatly in this chapter. Beah notes his own reluctance to believe circumstances can improve (the unlikely possibility of Leslie finding his uncle) and his deeply-ingrained distrust of others (telling Tommy “I don’t really know you”). Again persistence triumphs as Uncle Tommy keeps his word and visits Beah every week. Like Esther, Uncle Tommy does not push Beah to tell him about his experiences and continues to overwhelm the boy with affection and love.

On one of Beah’s walks with Uncle Tommy, he has the opportunity to connect with the older man in a way he had previously wished to connect with Esther: by bringing up one of his father’s few accounts of his childhood with Beah’s uncle, the boy is able to draw the older man out and discuss a shared history. Although his own childhood is still a tender subject, Beah is able to enjoy his uncle’s memory of a childhood that took place a generation ago. This also helps Beah to feel a connection to his missing family.