Author: Louise Geesedeh Barton
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
This book gets FIVE PERFECT VISIONS OF HAPPINESS -
Some people learn to survive by being tough, learning how to live off the land and some with the hope and strength given to them by their faith in God. As you hear the voice of the author and listen to her story you will truly understand her courage, persistence and will to live while running for her life for ten years and hoping to escape what so many did not. Imagine being killed by a child because he did not like your face. Imagine being killed because of the color of your skin or because his ring started to burn and get hot telling this murderer that you were of a specific tribe or group that they hated. Living in a world filled with danger, fear and hate. So Far to Run: The Memoir of Liberian Refugee Louise Géesedeh Barton by Louise G. Bartoni brings to light what happens when fear is instilled in your everyday existence, your mother leaves you as a young child and you find it hard to understand and your life one that causes you to be shuttled and juggled from family member to family member. As the story opens you hear the voice of Louise as she and others are being hunted down because they are members of the indigenous Krahn tribe and related to the President of Liberia Samuel K. Doe. The graphic beginning will bring chills down the reader’s spine, sadness in your heart and hope for those who are still struggling as you follow her journey from the start until the present.
Entering the house of Mrs. Smith Louise thought she would be welcomed. Instead, she was abused, overworked, treated cruelly and made to work ungodly hours all in the hopes of getting an education. Wrong doings or mistakes were greeted with severe punishments. The love she received from the Smith children the only that she knew and her family no longer there to protect her. Solo, her older brother left, her cousin who delivered her in the Army and her only salvation turned out to be Mrs. Smith’s sister who took her to a revival meeting where her life really began. Realizing that she no longer was a servant of this woman except in body but her heart and mind belonged to Jesus and the Lord, she began to thrive and change. Excelling in school and finally being able to teach Bible Studies with her teacher Ruth, Louise began to feel she had a purpose in life and not so alone anymore. But, the worst has yet to come and her newfound understanding of life was enhanced by the visions of the future that she saw in her dreams and mind and realized that trouble and discord were on their way to where she lived.
The courage of one woman to withstand all that she did comes through loud and clear. Her determination and drive to succeed and rise above what others thought of her brings tears to your eyes. You can feel the pride in her heart, the joys of her successes and the fear instilled in her when running for her life. Her love of life and persistence and will to live comes through in this outstanding first person narrative of her life. So Far to Run: Just how far will she have to go to find her freedom. Will it ever be far enough to hide the pain and feel the joys of life?
Then something happened that would change her life as she learns of her heritage and realized that her roots lie with the first family. Imagine finding out that the First Lady of Liberia is your cousin and that you have an Aunt Sarah that would be there to take care of you. Imagine getting full scholarship to help pay for her education, clothes and much more. One young girl that washed floors, cleaned bathrooms, scrubbed, did dishes, was never allowed to eat with anything but a spoon and treated as anything but what she was and is a bright, kind, intelligent and giving person. Riding in a limo to meet the first lady, learning about her past and finding out that she would have a future renewed her faith in herself and God. Seeing her father after so many years of separation was heartfelt and yet sad. Realizing her that her life was like and learning that his daughter was a servant and looked beaten sadden her father although nothing changed. Then a major rebellion brewed against Samuel K. Doe and those that were of her tribe would have to run for their lives. Living in Monrovia she felt save. Going to college and hoping to complete her education she did not think she was in danger. Then on Christmas Eve everything changed as rebel forces entered Monrovia. Krahn: thought to be her salvation as part of this tribe but the National Patriot Front of Liberia headed by Charles G. Taylor was out to rid the world of her tribe and many more. Wrongly accused of stealing Mrs. Smith’s perfume she no longer had a home and was forced to leave. But, truth is told Mrs. Smith just wanted to be rid of her so she would not have to deal with the war and the rebels. Finding her uncle she would now be on the run with him and his family has Mrs. Smith’s heart was cold and would not melt or budge. But, the story just begins here and the rest you won’t believe.
For years she would be on the run and what Louise, her family and others encountered was more than horrific. Defiled, degraded, tortured, beaten, raped, losing a child, betrayed by a friend, questioned as a rebel by the police and running for her life with no light in sight, Louise expresses her fears, joys and triumphs. Where someone else would have given up, given in to the fears, she stood up for herself, survived and defeated what others would have wanted for her, her family and friends: Death. What these refugees were through and some still are no one should have to endure. The hate and the cruelty goes beyond the definition of these two words and what she describes can only be understood by reading what happened to her and understanding why it should never continue. Losing her family, finding others and praying to God for her survival and others Louise opens her heart to the world without pause for thought. Finally going to college and hoping to take Library Science the road to freedom is still not hers and there is much more that she will endure because she does not have to run anymore.
Everything in her life came hard and the road and paths were blocked with many obstacles, people who stood in the way of her friends, family and loved ones. Losing so many along would have disheartened most and deflated their will to continue. Then, she heard God’s voice saw the visions and knew what her destiny was and what she needed to do. Walking into a meeting of the Liberian Refugees one evening, speaking about her experiences and explaining what needed to be done a young man named Abel and his friend Jeddee would change the course of events. Finding family, old friends and seeing the one person in her life she thought she lost would give her the spirit to make her final journey not just for her but for so many others too. From the streets of Liberia to the prison cells, jungles, forests, camps and the streets where she had to fend for help, the corrupt guards and the atrocities that she and so many faced, Louise Geesedeh Barton is more than just an inspiration. She became the voice, heart and soul of so many. For that I am sure there are those who will never forget her spirit, what she did for them and pursuing her own goals. Louise: Africa was your motherland but America is your home. So Far To Run: You have come all the way. Just how she survives and what else she had to endure in order to be free you need to read this outstanding, heartfelt, sad, heartbreaking true story of one woman’s courage to survive.
Thank you for sharing your story with me and for the honor or reviewing your memoir.
This book gets FIVE PERFECT VISIONS OF HAPPINESS
Fran Lewis: reviewer
I read this book in one day. Once you start reading you won’t be able to put it down until you read her entire story. Take the journey along with Louise, Abel, Moses, Cecelia, Josephine and all of the Liberian Refugees and the Krahn tribe and read her first hand account and hope that someday the rebels will no longer exist and the people of Liberia will no longer live in fear.