Sunday, 28 September 2014

"A Long Way Home" - a book recommendation

"A Long Way Home" is a memoir by Saroo Brierley (G.P. Putnam's Sons 2013).

From the book jacket:  "Saroo Brierley was born in a poor village in Khandwa, India.  He lived hand-to-mouth in a one room hut with his mother and three siblings for the first five years of his life.....until he got lost.  For twenty five years".

"This is the story of what happened to Saroo........ How at only five years old, uneducated and illiterate, he wound up on the streets of Calcutta. And survived,  How he later wound up in Hobart, Tasmania, living the life of an upper-middle-class Aussie.   And how, at thirty years old, with a propensity for solving mathematical formulas, a stubborn memory desperately clinging to the last images of his home-town and family, and the advent of Google Earth, of all things, he found his way home"

I took the book out at Sarasota County's Fruitville Library yesterday (27th Sep 2014) and finished reading it today (28th Sep 2014).

It's a story of what might have happened.  Saroo could well have been trafficked  (but for his intuition as a five year old, leading him to run away from danger).   Twice he was in danger of drowning.  And he could well have become one of the myriads of poor street children in Calcutta.

It's a story of human goodness.  There was the teenager who saw Saroo on the streets, and took him to the only safe place for a five year old - the police station.  There was the fabulous Mrs Saroj Sood who went to court and gained custody of Saroo, enabling him to live in her orphanage.  There was the amazing Australian couple John and Sue Brierley who adopted Saroo and enabled a loving, stable and joyous life in Hobart, Tasmania.

It's a story of dogged determination.  Saroo, who could hardly remember the name of his home town, (there are many places in India with similar names)  and mispronounced the district of the town where he lived for his first five years, engaged himself in deep detective work (with many a false lead) until he was able to go back to India and to his home town and district; (by some amazing deep memory he remembered the route from the railway station to this district - twenty five years later!), and to a joyful reunion with his birth mother, together with his brother and sister (another brother had been killed whilst train-hopping).

What a fabulous story.  It is a tale of the deep resilience of the human spirit, and of the better angels in some human beings.

My copy will soon be returned to the Sarasota County Library system.  If you do not live in SRQ you may be able to borrow it from your own local library or purchase it:  (It may be published by Penguin in the U.K. and Australia).

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