Last Updated on June 25, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 363
A Long Walk to Water is a historical fiction novel for young adults written by Linda Sue Park. The story, published in 2010, is based on the true story of Salva Dut.
The story presents the circumstances surrounding the Sudanese Civil War, a struggle lasting from 1983 to 2005. It is based on the author's acquaintance with Salva Dut (her inspiration for the novel's protagonist) in Rochester, New York, where Salva had been relocated after the civil wars.
The novel takes the shape of two narratives, one telling the story of Salva and the other telling the story of Nya. Salva comes of age during the civil wars and, as a result of gunfire breaking out at his school, flees his hometown and his family. The course of his narrative recounts his search, alongside other many other so-called "Lost Boys" (refugees from Sudan), for his family. His travels take him through the desert, amid the perils of animal attacks and dehydration. Salva eventually lives with a family in Rochester, New York, as part of a resettlement program. He returns to Sudan (where he meets Nya) when he establishes the Water for South Sudan organization.
Nya comes of age after the Sudanese Civil War, thus allowing the narrative to come full circle. Despite the conclusion of the war, Nya still needs to walk eight hours day to fetch water for her family from a distant pond. However, the tide of her life changes when a well is built in her town, and a school shortly thereafter.
A Long Walk to Water demonstrates that access to water is integral for the development of civilization. Once Nya's town has a well, a school is provided, which promises to change the lives of Nya and her family.
The story also showcases the change that can take place in the course of a single generation. Though Salva and Nya's stories are separated by just 25 years, they live in a very different Sudan. Nya's story demonstrates that not all problems are solved by Civil War. Nya's childhood is spent in the wake of the war, a landscape which requires attention and sustained hard work (such as Salva's efforts) to see lasting improvement.
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