Lion, A Long Way Home
By Saroo Brierley
Saroo Brierley was five years old when he got lost. He and his brother took a train away from their village in India, where they lived with their siblings and their mother, and became separated. When the authorities were unable to locate his mother after several months, he was sent to Australia to be adopted by a new family. Saroo did not see his birth family again for 25 years.
This is an astonishing story of great misfortune and even greater coincidences. In fact, this account is so full of coincidences that it seems implausible, but it is a true account and so we must wonder if it was fate, or as they say in India, “it is written”. Brierley offers a thoughtful, unhesitating memoir of his early years living in poverty and of the eventual rediscovery of his family after a long and arduous search. (Lest you think I am giving away the ending, I can assure you that this is revealed in the first few pages.)
Rather than bury his past, he has chosen to publicize it in order to help other children in India, thousands of whom live on the street with no one to care for them. He describes the conditions for lost and homeless children in India at length, painting a discouraging picture of the untold numbers of little souls who need a home. Brierley discusses the legislation in India that impedes the speedy international adoptions, which would alleviate the situation to a degree. He and his Australian mother currently campaign for a more humane system that would see children placed quickly, thereby sparing them the ordeal of residing with aggressive older teens and adults in temporary state run housing.
Although his writing style is plain and unadorned, his story is so inspiring that this memoir was recently made into a movie. Brierley has succeeded in transforming his early misery into a life filled with purpose and devotion. Throughout the book, he expresses admiration for the strong women who rescued him from a terrible fate. I find this a refreshing change from stories in which women are relegated to the margins, overshadowed by male heroes whose actions take center stage. I recommend it heartily.