The main character is Salva. He's in class "listening" while his teacher is talking, his back is perfectly straight. He truly isn't being attentive, he is paying attention, just not with his eyes and mind.
During the middle of class they hear gun shots. Immediately panic rises, and nobody's sure if it's a joke or if they are in danger. The teacher soon realizes that it isn't a joke and yells "Everyone, RUN!"
Salva and his peers run for their lives. None of them are sure where they're going, where they're headed, or how they're going to make it. Salva soon finds a group of Dinka tribes people, but he gets left. Salva joins an old woman then a group and travels with them.
When Salva is with his new group of Dinka people he hears his name being called. He finds out it's his uncle and it's the first family he's met since running into the 'Bush."
Just a few weeks after Salva's friend Mariel dissapers his uncle gets captured and is shot with three bullets that kill him. Salva can't take the grief of his feelings, because that's the only family he had in a very long time. Salva has to continue on even though his Uncle is dead. Salva's group tries to leave him like the first one, but he shows he can make it.
Salva's group never left him, so he decides to become the new leader. All of them find more and more Dinka people on the way. The group gets to their second refugee camp and there's a list of people whose family died or is orphaned. After a long period of time, Salva's name is on the list and he's on his way to Rochester, New York in the United States of America.