What is the What

by Betty

Another week, another book read. It is written as a novel, but is the true biography of a very young, fearful little boy growing up in a very chaotic poor land to become a fearless understanding man.

At seven or so he is told by his mother to RUN into the woods, to keep running in the dark of night, and hide all day under logs or dense bushes. Mother tells him to never look back and to never come back. He eats what he finds, too often nothing. He meets other boys on the RUN, none older than 16. Once the small group of three becomes ten, then fifty, then three hundred.

Years later, still on the run, they find themselves in a school. They spend mornings marching and following commands, and afternoons learning to kill with knives, swords, guns, clubs, in exchange for an indoor place to sleep and a meal or two a day.

Fast forward. The boys found themselves put into groups, sent to a strange land. They do not know where it was. They do not know the language. They have no money. Their few clothes were torn, filthy and too small. Few had shoes. But they were met by a refugee sponsor. Suddenly there was food to eat, clean clothes that fit, shoes for all, a place to live. A mentor encouraged the language of this new land and school. Working full time and going to school full time these boys graduated with high school educations and college degrees.

The refugee mentors still exist and provide help and guidance for the refugees. One group raised donations to aid the homeland they left long ago. A school has been built. The walls and roof keep out the rain, there are windows to let in the light, wood floors. A chalkboard, chalk, pencils, paper, books, teachers – the first school ever in this land.

The novel is heartbreaking, brutal, vicious, over and over. It ends with a light at the end of the way – a light of hope and compassion, promising a better time. It’s truly a living miracle. The writing style is fascinating.

One brave enough, open minded enough, to read all 500 pages. One always wonders – how could this be?

They proved anything is possible if you try hard enough, if you persist long enough.

What Is the What? The answer may be in the book.

“What Is the What?” by Dave Eggers, 2006

March  2011

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