I first remember hearing about Saroo Brierley’s unlikely story about three years ago, when some friend or another posted something that came up in my Facebook feed. I listened to the story (it was a three minute Google Earth video with Saroo narrating an abbreviated form of the events he experienced), and I felt a strong sense of poignancy as I imagined myself in his shoes, going through the years of searching for and eventually reuniting with his Indian family (to say this much is not a spoiler, as Saroo’s story has been widely reported in the international media since it broke in 2012, in addition to being made into a major motion picture last year).
While the story of Saroo’s return to India is perhaps the focal point of most news coverage, it is in his retelling of the dangers of being lost on the streets of Kolkata as a five-year-old that the story really resonates. Chased by men with ill-intentions, nearly drowning, being on the verge of starvation and death, the things that little Saroo survive are, frankly, astounding. Yes, it is likely that some events are tinged with the losses and editing associated with time and distance, and the natural tendency to define and redefine childhood experiences through adult lenses, but Saroo’s story as written is that most important of things that a good memoir must be: authentic.
The book itself is roughly divided into thirds: his experiences at home with his birth family, and then in Kolkata after becoming lost; his adoption by Sue and John Brierley and subsequent life in Australia; and his determination to succeed in his search, with the eventual reunion in the final third. I don’t know how much of his experience the movie covers (I will definitely be watching it soon), but it must necessarily, being only two hours long, miss large swaths of the deeply interesting tale that Saroo shares. If you have seen the movie, and are interested in Saroo’s journey, I strongly recommend his well-written, highly readable memoir.
Steve’s Rating: (8.5 / 10)
A well-written page-turner of a memoir that tells the complete story of Saroo Brierley’s journey from India to Tasmania and back again.
Pages: 288 (Trade Paperback)
Date: November 1, 2016
Saroo Brierley’s homepage