A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.
Publisher's Weekly review: Newbery Medalist Park's (The Single Shard) spare, hard-hitting novel delivers a memorable portrait of two children in Sudan—one an 11-year-old Lost Boy, Salva, who fled in 1985 and later immigrated to the United States, and 11-year-old Nya, who collects water for her village in 2008. Park employs well-chosen details and a highly atmospheric setting to underscore both children's struggles to survive. Salva's journey is tragic and harrowing, as he's driven by attacking soldiers and braves hunger, shifting alliances among refugees, and the losses of a friend to a lion attack and his uncle to violent marauders. "The days became a never-ending walk," he reflects. Salva's narrative spans 23 years and highlights myriad hardships but not without hope, as he withstands the deprivations of refugee camps, leads 1,200 boys to Kenya, and eventually gains sanctuary in Rochester, N.Y., where he still lives (he also contributes an afterword). Briefer entries about Nya preface chapters about Salva, illustrating the daily realities and sacrifices of modern-day life in Sudan. The eventual connection of Salva and Nya's stories offers the promise of redemption and healing.