What is the summary for A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story is a young adult novel (self-proclaimed as based on a true story) about two main characters: Salva and Nya, who live in the Sudan.

In the mid 1980s, Salva falls victim to an explosion in the Sudan.  The bomb goes off when Salva is eleven and in school.  The teacher wastes no time in telling the children to "run."  Following the advice of his teacher, Salva begins walking... and walking and walking.  Leaving his family, Salva heads for the open road alone, but is sometimes joined by others walking with him.  Where is Salva walking?  We learn soon that he is headed toward Ethiopia and a refugee camp there.  Unfortunately, even the camp is temporary safety.  Probably the best example of terror comes in the early 90s when thousands of the refugees die trying to cross a river full of hungry crocodiles.  They are being forced out of the country.  Salva survives the onslaught of the crocs and helps many young men to safety (finally in the country of Kenya). 

Nya, a young woman, has a completely different story. Where the "walk" part of the title A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story is about Salva, the "Water" part of the title is about Nya.  Nya is ruled by water.  She spends her entire day walking towards the pond and back from the pond in order to bring water to her family.  When the pond dries up, the family moves.  Even the new location isn't much better: it is a move to a dried up lake with only muddy water remaining.  In this way, she bonds with the character of Salva and shares the journey of Sudan to Ethiopia to the United States to the Sudan (again).

In conclusion, it's important to note that the latter story frames the former.  Further, they knit the two characters together amid the importance of walking and of water. 

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