A Long Walk to Water

by Linda Sue Park

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What has Salva lost by being without a family in A Long Walk to Water?

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For Salva, “family” meant far more than the nuclear family of parents and siblings that has become typical in heavily urbanized countries. Living in a small village, many of his fellow Dinka people were also members of his extended family. The overlap between family and community provided a huge support network. Losing this network leaves him feeling not just lonely and frightened but disoriented.

When Salva is forced to flee, his association with his uncle Jewiir becomes paramount on the long trek toward (they hope) safety. Jewiir, tragically, is killed, but Salva must continue. Although he has lost more family, he also says that he has gained strength. The firsthand experiences of loss and witnessing violence, along with the physical deprivations suffered on the long walk, are also combined with the necessity to form new community bonds. Ultimately those will enable him to both take on the role of son in his adoptive family and find his birth father when he returns to Sudan.

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