Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to Water

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A Long Walk to Water Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 32-page guide for “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 18 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 10 important quotes and discussion questions.

Plot Summary

A Long Walk to Water is a creative non-fiction story about the life of one of the Lost Boys from South Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The primary character, Salva Dut, relates his life from a pre-teenager wandering with groups of other war victims from refugee camp to refugee camp, and then to his new home with his new family in Rochester, New York as a young adult, and finally back to his family of origin in Sudan. Ultimately, Salva creates an organization that digs wells, the ultimate gift of life, for small Sudanese villages.

The book opens with Salva daydreaming during Arabic class. Jolted back to reality by gunfire, Salva obeys his teachers who say not to run back home to their villages but to run for the bush instead. Throughout most of the novel, Salva and the companions he meets along the way always move away from sounds of armies. The young boys have to fear not only for their lives, but also being forced to fight for either side of the combatants in this Second Sudanese Civil War.

The first group of people whom Salva meets up with abandon him as he sleeps in a barn. However, all is not lost, because he meets an older Dinka (his tribe) woman who feeds him peanuts. When the fighting gets too close and she decides she must leave, she finds a group of wanderers for him to join.

Salva worries constantly about his family. One day his Uncle Jewiir meets up with the group. He is a member of the rebel forces and carries a rifle. For these reasons, he becomes the leader of this band. Before he is shot by a band from the Nuer tribe (the Dinkas’ rival), he teaches Salva the most important lesson of the book—that you can get through even horrible, painful things if you do work through them by setting small goals.

Salva experiences many horrific adventures as he walks, swims, and canoes from camp to camp. For example, his good friend is slaughtered and carried away in the night by a lion. He is nearly eaten by alligators  when he and his companions are forced into a dangerous river across which he must swim. He and his group come upon several men, dead and dying of thirst in the desert, and he sees the kindness and mercy of some women who share their water putting their own lives in jeopardy.

While he is in New York, he continues to learn the English that Michael, an Irish camp aid had taught him, and he goes to junior college. During this time, he gets the idea that he would like to do something for his people.

The co-narrative is the life of a young Nuer girl, named Nya, from the tribe of Salva’s traditional enemy. The story describes her struggle to carry water to her family each day and explains how her younger sister gets very ill from drinking the polluted water they all must drink. One day a group of men come to the village and begin drilling a well. Everyone is overjoyed because it will change their lives. At the very end, she asks the leader of the group who he is, and it is Salva. The novel has come full circle.

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Chapters 1-2