‘What did my family think had happened to me? Were they looking, or did they think I was dead, gone, lost forever?’
These are the thoughts of a terrified five year old lost in a city that could not see him…
Lion: A Long Way Home is the true-life account of one boy Saroo Brierley and his extraordinary journey. Published by Penguin in November 2016, it has since been made into a big screen movie starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.
Lion was the book of choice for May with the book-club I am involved with, so I thought I would share my thoughts with you all today…
Book Info: (Courtesy of Author’s Website)
When Saroo Brierley used Google Earth to find his long-lost home town half a world away, he made global headlines.
Saroo had become lost on a train in India at the age of five. Not knowing the name of his family or where he was from, he survived for weeks on the streets of Kolkata, before being taken into an orphanage and adopted by a couple in Australia.
Despite being happy in his new family, Saroo always wondered about his origins. He spent hours staring at the map of India on his bedroom wall. When he was a young man the advent of Google Earth led him to pore over satellite images of the country for landmarks he recognised. And one day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for.
Then he set off on a journey to find his mother.
A Long Way Home is a moving and inspirational true story of survival and triumph against incredible odds. It celebrates the importance of never letting go of what drives the human spirit – hope.
The very interesting thing about being involved in a book-club is that you sometimes get to read books that you may not normally have gravitated toward. In this case, I was very intrigued to read Lion, so I was only too delighted when it was chosen for our book-club read in May.
Unfortunately, for me, it did not live up to my expectations…
The story of Saroo Brierley would break your heart. At the tender age of five, Saroo looks after his two-year old younger sister while his mother and brothers go out to work and scavenge for food. One fateful day, Saroo persuades his older brother, Guddu, to take him along on one of his trips, as Saroo now feels old enough to handle the experience. At the railway station, Guddu tells him to remain there while he heads off to look for food and work. The day passes and Saroo nods off but it is later when he wakes up, he discovers that he is alone. In a blind panic he hops on a train, without any idea of where it travels to. Able to keep a low profile, Saroo eventually finds himself in Calcutta.
‘As the stallholders had seemed indifferent to begging children, I went along the water’s edge, thinking I might find people cooking there. Daylight confirmed that this was the biggest river I had ever seen, but it was also fouler and smellier, lined with dead animals, human excrement and filth….I was horrified to see two dead people lying among the piles of rubbish, one with his throat cut, the other with his ears chopped off…..The sight made me feel sick…it confirmed what I’d already begun to feel – that every day in this city was a matter of life and death.’ Saroo Age 5
Saroo continues with such vivid descriptions of the horrors that he was exposed to at such a young age and this was the part of the book that stole my heart. A little boy witnessing such scenes of a brutal nature when all he wants is to go home and get a warm and welcome hug from his mummy.
Saroo, through a pure twist of fate, ended up in the care of a very good lady, Mrs Sood, from the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption (ISSA), who secured him an adoptive family. Unable to locate his own immediate family and also due to Saroo’s young age and inability to communicate properly, it was felt that this new family would be his saving Grace. But for Saroo it meant leaving his homeland, as the Brierley family lived in Australia.
A warm welcome awaited Saroo and for many years he adapted well to this new culture, but always the longing to go home was there. His adoptive parents did adopt another young boy from India but his was a different story to Saroo’s and his background, though sketchy, was a very traumatic one.
With the development of the internet, and more importantly Google Earth, Saroo began a search that would remain his goal for many years. He had a vague recollection of specific markers in his hometown in India and with the upgrading of Google Earth and technology over the years, the search became a little more accessible.
Now this is where I unfortunately lost interest in the book and found myself skimming over a few pages. Saroo Brierley has an amazing story to tell. Of that there is no doubt. But…when he is trawling through the internet for hours on end, I’m just not so sure the reader is brought on that part of the journey with him. The writing is very factual and to the point. As a reader I want to experience joy, sadness, exhilaration and deflation but I felt none of these in this section of the book.
Against the odds, Saroo does find his home and he does have a very emotional reuniting with his mother. His mother is an amazing woman. Her belief that he would always come home is evident as you read the final pages.
Lion is a story of triumph. How a five-year old boy could survive the dangers placed in front of him is a phenomenon. Saroo overcame the most horrendous of circumstances. His will to survive in such a treacherous environment is an inspiration. Saroo always had hope and belief that he would someday find home and it is this strength of conviction which drove him onwards at all times.
I do feel however that a little more assistance in the editing at certain times would have benefited the book more. As a reader, someone’s journey on Google Earth is difficult to maintain interest, when portrayed in such a practical manner.
A fascinating story. I am very glad I read it as it is a story of hope and it is an inspiration for others who may have lost all sense of the word.
Purchase Link ~ Lion
About the Author:
Saroo Brierley was born in an Indian town called Khandwa. In 1986, aged only 5, he lost all contact with his family when he was at a train station waiting for his brother who never returned.
After living on the streets of Calcutta for 3 weeks by himself, he then got placed into a local orphanage where an Australian family adopted Saroo. He then grew up with his newly adopted parents in Hobart, Tasmania where he spent the next 25 years.
After years trying to track down his old town through the labyrinth of railways lines on Google Earth and an image etched into his brain as a 5 year old, he finally found his town Khandwa on the map and travelled to India to try and find members of his family. In early 2012, after 25 years of seperation, he finally reunited with his mother. (Author’s website)