Synopsis: When Saroo Brierley used Google Earth to find his long-lost home town half a world away, he made global headlines. Saroo had become lost on a train in India at the age of five. Not knowing the name of his family or where he was from, he survived for weeks on the streets of Kolkata, before being taken into an orphanage and adopted by a couple in Australia. Despite being happy in his new family, Saroo always wondered about his origins. He spent hours staring at the map of India on his bedroom wall. When he was a young man the advent of Google Earth led him to pore over satellite images of the country for landmarks he recognised. And one day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for. Then he set off on a journey to find his mother. (via Goodreads)

Not long ago, my daughter-in-law told me how deeply she loved the movie Lion. She was effusive in her praise! So I picked up the audiobook version of A Long Way Home, which Lion is based on, when it went on sale. I’m glad I did, and as it turned out, I finished this book just an hour into the 24in48 readathon last weekend. It was great to have a finished book so early in the game!

Saroo and his parents, both his Indian biological mother and his Australian adoptive parents, are inspiring. As a long-time stepmother, I understand that parental love doesn’t require biology. It just requires the desire to give love.

How Saroo managed to survive on the streets of a city like Kolkata is amazing. Somewhere inside the child was the strength of a grown man. And the grown man Saroo, who doggedly pursued the details of his Indian birthplace, used that strength to being his two homes and families together. Amazing!

I have to admit that, while listening to this book, I used Google to see satellite images of Kolkata and the train station which figures in Saroo’s story.

I appreciated how Brierley discusses the way it felt to be an immigrant to Australia, and the process of finding his niche. It’s discussion like this that remind us most immigrants are just trying to make their way in the world of change and often sadness.

However, while the crux of the story is wonderful, I thought the writing in this book was simplistic and even a little uninspired. Since Saroo wisely chose to use a credited ghostwriter, I’m surprised there isn’t more complexity in the portrayal of such intense emotions and events. It must be a hard balance for a ghostwriter to strike, not removing the author’s sense of identity while punching up the story. For me, a different balance would have made it a better book.

The audiobook narrator, Vikas Adam, did a great job. To my American ears, the Australian and Indian accents were on point. His voice sounded like it could have been Brierley’s. I’d listen to other books narrated by him.

All in all, I’m glad I read A Long Way Home. Now I can watch the movie and get a visual sense of the locales and people.