Long-time known to American audiences, Newbery medal winner Linda Sue Park will be gracing our shores next week as a guest on the Melbourne Writers’ Festival schools’ program. It is a particular honour as Park continues to distinguish herself by writing stories that peel away character’s differences to reveal universal emotions that are felt by all.
‘A Long Walk to Water’ is one of those stories.
It is a story that is partially based on the true story of Salva Dut, a Somalian from the Dinka tribe, who trekked across his country into Ethiopia to escape the war that ravaged his land. While Salva’s story is based in 1985 and details the violent nature of the war in clear but understated means, Park has chosen to juxtapose his story with that of the fictional Nya.
Nya lives in present day Somalia walking the lengthy journey to fetch water twice a day to hydrate her family. She is a member of the Nuer tribe which battles over land with Salva’s tribe. Water and walking is central to both tales, as is determination. Neither character could survive without their singular focus on the goal of placing one foot in front of the other. Somalia is a hard place under enormous political tension and environmental hardship but Park has made what will be a foreign concept for many readers a universal story of family, grief and perseverance.
The Sudanese ‘Lost Boys’ are famed; Salva was one of the 3,800 boys who were relocated from Africa during this period in history. Park has taken a horrific part of Sudan’s history and crafted it with empathy, research and a gentle touch. The time she spent with Salva and the research she undertook shines but ultimately takes a backseat to the feelings her characters experience as the adjust to the difficulties of their world.
TAGS: Book Review