At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write or recall the name of his hometown or even his own last name, he survived alone for weeks on the rough streets of Calcutta before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia.
Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to look for the needle in a haystack he once called home, and pore over satellite images for landmarks he might recognize or mathematical equations that might further narrow down the labyrinthine map of India. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.
The first book of 2019 with my real-life book club. I missed the meeting during which it was discussed, but I see at least two of my book club ladies have rated it on either side of my own rating. It wasn’t a bad story, but it certainly wasn’t the most riveting memoir that I’ve ever read either.
First off, the story is an amazing one. A four to five year old Indian child, separated from his family, too young to know his own surname or the proper name of his town. Eventually, we even learn that he mispronounced his given name! Judging from this account, it sounds like he didn’t have much vocabulary and he may have had speech difficulties, as he couldn’t seem to make himself understood to the adults in the new world he found himself in. He did come from a very impoverished family, so schooling was unavailable to him, but he was young for school attendance anyway. His family members were so occupied with survival that there was no time to spend educating the younger children.
I’m pretty sure that, at the same age, I wouldn’t have been able to identify the landmarks around my home with the degree of certainty and accuracy that Mr. Brierley did. That’s what makes the story so interesting, is his ability to recognize his home town from Google Earth.
I can see where the movie version of this tale would probably be superior to the book. The author is obviously not a practiced writer, so the writing is very average. There is a great deal of unnecessary detail and quite a bit of repetition.
People who are adoptees would probably have greater interest in this story than I did. I personally would recommend trying the movie before picking up the book.