Saturday 18 February 2017

LION: A LONG WAY HOME by Saroo Brierley @brierley_saroo

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

How I discovered this book:  My sister recommended the film Lion to me, and I was blown away not just by the film itself, but by the story.  I thought about it for days after ~ I had to read the book.

In the mid 1980s, Saroo was a five year old boy living in poverty in an Indian village with his mother and siblings.  On a railway station, some way from the village, he became separated from his older brother, boarded an empty, stationary train and fell asleep.  When he woke up, he was miles away, and unable to get out of the train.  He ended up travelling 1600 kilometres, to the other side of the country and Calcutta, in just the clothes he stood up in, hungry and unable to speak the language.  

Saroo's story is incredible, and made me think about the survival instinct in every human, even a five year old child, much more so than the film did.  The account of how he stayed alive, and the instinct he developed for danger, is far more detailed than in the film.  Eventually (and I won't tell you the whole story because you should read it for yourself), he was adopted by a couple from Hobart, Tasmania, who have given him a wonderful life.

As he grew up, he thought more and more about his Indian family.  Alas, he remembered the name of his village wrongly, knew his mother only as 'Mum', and had no idea of the places through which he'd travelled to get to Calcutta.  Although searches were made, no one could ever trace his family.  As a young adult, Saroo became increasingly obsessed with the idea of finding them.  Using the new site Google Earth, he started to investigate rural India, sure that he could find the village he came from.  It was a mammoth task that took over his life.

After years of searching without success, mostly because he hadn't realised how far he had travelled, he at last found the village in which he'd spent those first years of his life.  Of course, he went back ~ the reunion between him and his family had me in floods when I watched the film, and it's very touching in the book, too.   His mother had never moved away from the area, because she felt sure he would return one day.

It's a beautifully and simply written book, and taught me much I didn't know about how the poor in India live.   What struck me most, though, was how happy Saroo's childhood was, despite being constantly hungry and living, day to day, with the sort of deprivation we can't imagine.  The story of his adoptive parents is one that would give anyone faith in humankind; Saroo talks about his good fortune in finding people who helped him, and how easily he could have disappeared into the dangerous underworld of the Calcutta streets, forever.

Highly recommended.   



  2. The film and the book are on my tbr list. Another with a similar theme is The Wheel of Surya by Jamila Gavin.

    1. Thanks, Liz! And do let me know when you've seen/watched :)

  3. I really want to see this film but now I think I'll grab the book first! Great review :)

    1. I think it's possibly best to see the film first, as there's quite a lot in the book that isn't in it, and you can picture the stuff in the book better if you've seen the film :)