Review: A Long Way Home

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, (Melbourne: Penguin, 2013).

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, (Melbourne: Penguin, 2013).

Do you remember becoming separated from your parents by accident as a child?  That moment when you realised that you could not find your parents and were lost in a strange place was terrifying.  You may have been rooted by fear, or madly dashed around. You probably called out for them in between sobs.

Perhaps you have lost one of your own children.  My husband recalls the panic he felt when the tram he had just boarded started moving and he realised that our five-year old was still at the tram stop.  He yelled at the tram driver to stop but the tram kept going.  Hubble left the tram at the next stop and vividly remembers his mad sprint down the road to the tram stop where our daughter was still standing.

Fortunately for most of us that moment is transitory.  Parents find their children after a couple of minutes or kind strangers take the child to the store manager or police who find their parents.  Parents and the child resolve to be more careful in future and life resumes.

The nightmare for five-year old Saroo and his mother was not transitory.  Saroo was lost on the streets of Kolkata and his desperate mother was unable to find him.  The separation became permanent. Yet while kind strangers were unable to reunite the child with his mother they were able to provide the care he needed. Now an adult, Saroo Brierley tells his story in A Long Way Home.

My first introduction to this book was through a well-written review by Brenda on Goodreads.  I was not looking for another book to read but Brenda’s review was so compelling I bought it that afternoon and a week later had finished reading it.

This book hangs on memories.  Every night Brierley would go to bed thinking of his mother and his siblings, reviewing those aspects of his home life he could remember, praying for the well-being and comfort of his family.  He worked hard at maintaining his memories, because they just might help him reconnect to his family.  But memories are slippery things and hard to control.  Did the five-year old properly understand the circumstances on which his memories were constructed?  Were the memories zealously revised by the older child, the teenager and young adult protected from the ravages of time?

I have deliberately not revealed much about this book because I want you to be able to experience it like I did, with little knowledge of the outcome.  I am grateful to Brenda for introducing me to this book and the fact that she did not include any spoilers.

This is an emotional story told with sincerity.  It is uplifting and fulfils Brierley’s wish that through it people can gain a renewed sense of hope.

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