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The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan

A-TheyPouredFireThree of the 20,000 refugee boys who fled the Sudanese civil war 14 years ago tell the stories, in alternating chapters, of their 1,000-mile exodus from a rural village in the southern Sudan and exile in a Kenyan refugee camp. American mentor Judy Bernstein helped the now 20-year-old men who live in San Diego—two brothers and their cousin—record their memories. Brutal tales of privation, horror, disease, and despair emerge in serious, quiet tones as homage to the 2 million dead and 5 million displaced during this horrific religious and ethnic conflict of the late 1980s.
PublicAffairs. 336 pages. $25. ISBN: 1586482696

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"One can hardly imagine such an account being pleasurable to read, but when considered as a tribute to their character, it is compelling. … Although the experiences themselves deliver an indictment, the account is remarkably without condemnation or self-pity, and the boys exhibit an underlying innocence and purity." Susan Vreeland

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"After reading this book, readers may feel like they’ve been on an adventure—or in hell, depending on their point of view. Whatever the case, this book is an eye-opener." Dolores Derrickson

San Antonio Exp-News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"By the middle of the book, the reader is dazed by the examples of abject horror and inhumanity. … Their story will take the reader on a trip not soon forgotten of spirits unwilling to be broken."
Vincent Davis

San Diego Union-Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]he soft plainness of the young writers’ voices, combined with their moral insight, throws the surreal danger and strife into sharp relief. They speak for the Sudanese who cannot, to attest that ‘although people always hoped and prayed for peace, peace never came and we lost hope.’" Wendy L. Smith

Minneapolis Star-Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]he book is at once an important addition to the contemporary dialog on world affairs and a surprisingly lyrical account of coming of age under adverse conditions. … Much of the writing … is lovely and unusual, likely a result of the multilingual educations the three received in the refugee camps."
Cherie Parker

Critical Summary

Many of the reviews simply summarize the book and plight of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," as if the reviewers were too awestruck by the story to criticize its telling. Critics describe the narrative as "numbing," "surreal," "amazing," "harrowing," and "haunting." Details of scrambling for food, crossing crocodile-inhabited rivers, suffering injuries, and joining the rebel movement against their will abound. One would have enjoyed reading more about the boys’ culture shock upon arriving in America; one would have liked a map of the boys’ journey. Yet all agree that this group memoir is moving and ultimately inspirational.

Supplemental Reading

Brothers in Hope The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan | Mary Williams (2005): This is a children’s book describing a young boy’s journey with other orphans to a refugee camp.

Escape from Slavery The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America | Francis Bok with Edward Tivnan (2003): 4 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2004. Bok was kidnapped in war-torn Sudan in 1986 and spent 10 years enslaved to a Sudanese Arab.