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A Long Way Home

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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.

288 pages, Paperback

First published June 24, 2013

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About the author

Saroo Brierley

7 books244 followers
Saroo Brierley (born 1981) is an Indian-born Australian businessman who, at age 5, was separated from his biological mother. He was adopted by an Australian couple, and 25 years later reunited with his biological mother. His story generated significant international media attention, especially in Australia and India.

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5 stars
24,295 (38%)
4 stars
25,228 (40%)
3 stars
10,344 (16%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,157 reviews
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,795 reviews2,389 followers
June 3, 2017

Sad, horrifying, wondrous, life affirming, heartbreaking and heartwarming.

When Saroo’s father left his mother and their family for another woman, another family, they moved from the Hindu community / side of town to the Muslim side moving into a single room falling apart with a cowpat and mud floor and a small corner fireplace. What light there was came from candles. No electricity. Broken, unpaved streets outside throughout the poverty-stricken neighborhood.

Kamla, Saroo’s mother, worked 6 days a week, morning until nightfall, hard physically grueling work, sometimes gone for days at a time. Still, it wasn’t enough, so Guddu, the oldest at ten, went to work, washing dishes for 6 hours for half a rupee. I don’t know what that was worth then, but now one rupee is equivalent to 1.6 cents, so less than a penny for 6 hours of washing dishes. Still, they ended up begging for scraps from neighbors, anyone. Still, there were moments that Saroo would look back on later with fondness: playing peek-a-boo with Shekila, his baby sister. Playing with his brothers, Guddu and Kallu.

Guddu also tried extra jobs, selling items at the train station platform, but that created new problems with the law.

”I remember feeling hungry most of the time. There was no choice to the matter, hunger was simply a fact of life, like the searing heat and the constantly buzzing flies.”

Looking up to his older brother, five year-old Saroo decides to go with Guddu one night. It would be years before Saroo would return. With only a vague idea of the name of the village he is from, and many miles in between, it’s amazing he ever found his way back.

Five years old, I remember naps in school, a playground, an older brother and a brand new baby brother. I did have a long distance trip that year – to Disneyland, my father, my older brother and me, but Calcutta is nothing like Disneyland, everyone spoke my language and money was not something I was concerned with. I was more concerned that my father didn’t know how to do pigtails.

All a far cry from a five year-old boy, in Calcutta, with no money, no family and no idea of where he is or how to find his way home.

He tries. Over and over.

And then, after a series of unfortunate circumstances followed by one fortunate one, Saroo ends up in an orphanage, and is “found” by one woman working there - Saroj Sood. She seeks to find his home going on the only words he associates with his home. Ginestlay. Berampur. His town. The train station. Neither name is recognized by anyone, and after months pass, he is declared “lost,” so that he is now available for adoption. A wonderful Australian couple are hoping he would like to come live with them, let them be his new family and live in Tasmania. Mrs. Sood asks Saroo if he thinks he would like to live with this family. This couple has lovingly put together a scrap book, photos of the plane to transport him to Australia, their home. His future in pictures.

Saroo owes much of his open heart to Sue and John Brierley, a couple who were heaven sent. They opened their hearts a second time, a few years later, to adopt a brother for Saroo, a second son for them, named Mantash.

Years go by, time passes and one day in 2004, Google purchases Brian McClendon’s company “Keyhole, Inc.”, and suddenly the world is at your fingertips. Google Earth. By this time, Saroo Brierley is a young man, and the internet as we know it is even younger, but there is a promise of something, just knowing it is out there and can be found. Consistent persistency with no results is emotionally draining. Exhausting. More time passes and the demand for instant everything brings faster speeds. Less time looking with better results. All this benefits Saroo in his search.

From the first days after he came to live with his Mom and Dad, his new parents were extremely supportive and helpful. Photographs, maps were drawn of his vague memories as a five year-old, which she kept. In case he ever wanted to find these answers. What an amazing gift, and what an amazing gift he gives them in return.

This book was originally titled “A Long Way Home: A Memoir,” and was reissued as “Lion” as a tie-in with the movie. Although he didn’t know this until his search was complete, Saroo’s given name was actually Sheru, which, in Hindu, means “Lion,” – and that became the name of the movie.

An inspirational, true story, a life most of us can’t imagine – all this is the story of Saroo Brierley.
Profile Image for میعاد.
Author 8 books222 followers
August 15, 2023
وقتى ترجمهٔ اين كتاب رو شروع كردم، می‌دونستم به‌علت موضوعش، كار آسونى نيست. كتاب گاهی اصطلاح‌هاى بومی داشت و حتی وقتى از افرادى كه سال‌هاست ترجمه می‌کنند معنی‌شون رو می‌پرسدم جواب دقیقی نمی‌گرفتم. تا اين‌كه خودم از طريق صحبت با افراد انگليسى‌زبان، معنى اصطلاح‌های كتاب ‌رو متوجه ‌شدم. به‌هرحال قطعا ترجمهٔ بی‌ایراد نیست و مشکلاتی داره! تمام مدتی كه كتاب رو ترجمه و بعد نمونه‌خوانى كردم، با لحظه‌هايى كه سارو درد می‌كشيد درد ‌كشيدم. افرادى كه ترجمه می‌کنند (بخصوص وسواسى‌هاشون) می‌دونند مكث‌‌كردن روى تك‌تك جمله‌ها، باعث می‌شه دوبرابر حالات نويسنده رو درك كنى. داستانش پُر از حرف و فلسفه دربارهٔ زندگى آدماست؛ اين‌كه بچه‌دارشدن چقدر مسئوليت مهمیه و بعضى از آدم‌ها اصلاً به اين قضيه توجه نمی‌كنند و فقط كوركورانه بچه‌دار می‌شن... اين‌كه چقدر خوب می‌شه اگه پیش از تصميم‌گرفتن به عواقب كارمون فكر كنيم.
مى‌‌دونم خيلی‌هاتون فيلم اين كتاب رو دوست داشتيد، ولى به نظرم كتابش چندين برابر كامل‌تر و جذابتره.

تمام تلاشم رو كردم تا بهترين ترجمه‌اى رو كه در توانمه ارائه بدم، اميدوارم دوستش داشته باشید.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,616 reviews985 followers
June 28, 2021
It's India in the 1980s and Saroo, his siblings and his mum live in extreme poverty sharing a single room with only a single shelf as furniture; mum and older brother get work that pays very little, and the rest of the time the mother and kids have to beg, borrow or steal to survive. One night, on an adventure with his older brother, Saroo finds himself stuck on a train and travelling hundreds and hundreds of miles away from his home. With no resources, completely lost and alone, Saroo has to eke out some kind of living on the streets of Calcutta (now know as Kolkata)... oh... as I have yet to mention his age... he was five years old!

The memoir follows Saroo's life of poverty at home, to living on the streets of Kolkata, through to his getting adopted, and then on to his search for his family as an adult. Overall it is an uplifting story that pays tribute to Saroo's luck as much as his competency; it also give a huge nod to the power of acts of kindness. The book was co-written by Larry Buttrose, which may explain that even though the narration is very personalised, it feels distant. 8 out of 12, for the story itself, maybe a lot less for the writing.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,484 reviews843 followers
April 23, 2017
I remember hearing about this story when it ‘broke’ a few years ago, and then it surfaced again when Nicole Kidman starred in the movie LION, and the rest will, no doubt, be history.

First, I have to say that although I already knew the bones of the story, as so many potential readers may, it only made the reading that much more enjoyable. Ghost-writer Larry Buttrose isn’t listed on the cover although he’s credited “with Larry Buttrose” inside.

The Goodreads description is the first four introductory pages of the book. It is so long and thorough, you can get a good idea of what it sounds like. (Read that, if you haven't.) Saroo tells his own story, and I think Buttrose has captured his tone and feelings well.

Saroo (he doesn’t know his last name) is five, gets lost in Calcutta (as Kolkata was then known), is eventually adopted by Aussies in Tasmania, and rediscovers his birth family using Google maps. Each step of his convoluted journey to Australia makes the outcome even more unbelievable. Just surviving was quite an achievement

His experience makes a wonderful, terrible, terrifying, exhilarating and ultimately satisfying adventure, but there are certainly dark undertones about the children loose on the streets in India. I can’t say they are “neglected”, because that makes it sound as if there’s a choice that they wouldn’t be.

Saroo’s mother (dad left with a surprise second wife) works carrying stones on her head for construction sites, leaving 5-year-old Saroo at home to mind his even younger little sister while two older brothers beg and scavenge for food. It’s just the way it was (and is). They are always hungry and live in a shed with a cow-pat floor.

Hindi was his native language, but typical of many small children in desperately poor areas of the world, he had very little vocabulary to work with when he was found. Many refugee children arrive in Australia with little language or smatterings of several but command of none.

“Mum had always been fascinated by India and knew something about the conditions many people were living under there: in 1987 Australia’s population was 17 million, and that same year in India, around 14 million children under the age of ten died from illness or starvation. While obviously adopting one child was merely a drop in the ocean, it was something they could do. And it would make a huge difference to that one child. They chose India.”

His mum (as he always refers to Sue Brierley), had a violent childhood, but Dad, John Brierley, had a happy upbringing, which gave stability to the family. They were in complete agreement about what they wanted to do together.

The story moves back and forth, quite naturally, from Saroo’s memories to his searches to today, and it’s amazing how much and how well he remembered. But it wasn’t by accident.

He replayed everything he did and everywhere he went in his mind, so he wouldn’t forget. As soon as he woke up lost in Calcutta, he tried to replay his memories of accidentally falling asleep on a train so he might figure out where it came from. He hopped on every train he could find, but with no luck.

Later, growing up in Tasmania, he continued to practice retracing everything in his mind, as a kind of meditation, from walking around his village, to crawling into hiding places (sewer pipes – yuck!), to escaping dogs, sexual predators, and organ collectors! The odds on his surviving intact were slim indeed. But he never forgot all the landmarks he’d committed to memory. At FIVE!

As I said, knowing these details won’t affect the fun you’ll have reading his story and enjoying the many photos that accompany it. Unfortunately, the adoption process takes longer than it did in the 1980s, but he says it’s quicker if you don’t demand a certain age or gender. If any Aussies are interested: http://www.intercountryadoption.gov.au/

I bet there’ll be a surge in demand as more people see the movie, LION, (the meaning of his name, Sheru, in Hindi). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_(2...

The Wikipedia article about Larry Buttrose has a nice story about how he worked on the book. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_B...

“His best known book is A Long Way Home, the Saroo Brierley memoir, which he ghost-wrote in 2012. He researched and wrote the book between September and December of that year, including research trips to Hobart to interview Saroo and his family, and a month-long journey to India with Saroo. There he met Saroo’s Indian family, and travelled with Saroo on a rail journey across India, retracing for the first time the journey that Saroo took two and a half decades before as a young child, that ended him in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Buttrose completed the book in his Kolkata hotel room, and emailed the manuscript to the publishers Penguin on the date of the deadline.”

Terrific book, unbelievable story from an amazing memory, wonderfully told! (Oh, am I gushing?)
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,027 reviews374 followers
August 15, 2021
Destino ou Acidente ?

A Vida tem daqueles Dias que só nos permitem satisfazer os caprichos de Sua Majestade, O Inesperado.
Ora foi num desses Dias que Saroo, um jovem com apenas 5 anos de idade, se perdeu do seu irmão mais velho, numa estação de comboios.
Desorientado, sem a ínfima ideia de como regressar a casa, enfia-se num comboio, em busca de Salvação.
Porém, a ansiada Salvação não chega, e em alternativa, após longas horas de viagem, Saroo vê-se despejado nas ruas de Calcutá!
E por lá deambula algumas semanas, sobrevivendo o melhor que pode a Perigos Vários, mal sinalizados. Até que um Anjo que patrulhava os Céus de Calcutá o eleva nas suas asas e o entrega aos cuidados dum orfanato. Mais tarde, é adotado por um casal e parte com eles para a Austrália, onde enceta uma outra vida.

Embora tenha tomado um Novo Rumo, Saroo nunca esqueceu as suas Raízes!

Pouco se lembrava dos locais da sua infância.
Revisitava-os na memória, truncados, fragmentados em parcas peças dum puzzle muito inacabado.
Só volvidos 25 anos sobre o Fatídico Dia em que se perdera, é que Saroo, com a preciosa ajuda do Google Earth, foi capaz de identificar essas peças que teimavam em assomar-lhe à memória e finalmente desvendar a solução do puzzle que lhe devolveu as Raízes perdidas!

Finda esta estória, só nos ocorre agradecer:

Obrigada Internet!
Obrigada Google!
És Aquele Génio da Lâmpada!
O Exterminador Implacável dos mais Duros Impossíveis!...

E Vocês? Que pensam de tudo isto?
Acidente ou Ironia do Destino?!...

Ah! E anda por aí um filme : http://filmpt.com/lion/
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,478 reviews7,774 followers
May 26, 2017
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

A Long Way Home will probably end up as a selection on all the lists featuring inspirational stories and here I go giving it a 2 Star. What can I say?????

The first sign that this probably wasn't going to be a great book is the fact that the blurb wasn't even a blurb, but rather the opening pages of the story. That should have served as my warning, but I was all about reading errrrrry book that went from “Read to Reel” and I didn’t even bother looking into this one at all before requesting it. Plus, the movie has received about eleventy Oscar nominations so it had to be decent, right? Wellllllllllllllllllllllll, the story was . . . . it was just terribly written and could have easily been an article in a Newsweek or Time type of publication rather than a nearly 300 page book.

A Long Way Home is about a boy named Saroo, who at five years old becomes lost from his family and winds up on the other side of India. Not knowing his last name and only that he lived in a place that sounded something like “Berampur,” Saroo is labeled lost by the Indian government and winds up adopted by an Australian family. As an adult Saroo becomes a bit obsessed and uses Google maps to walk the various train tracks in hopes of spotting something familiar that will reconnect him with his past . . . .

There you have it. It’s quite clear immediately that Saroo Brierley is no writer (and if I’m calling it out, you know it must be bad) and the fact that he was only five years old when he became lost meant hardly any details of his story were remembered. This could have been a much more comprehensive tale if it wasn’t so one-dimensional and used contributions from his families (in both Australia and India) as well as the juvenile detention facility and orphanage to help make it feel more complete.

I have a feeling this is one of the rare occasions where the movie will surpass the book. I mean, just look at this child . . . .

I hate kids and I even kind of want to kidnap that one.

Book #9 (????? I’m starting to lose track) on the Library’s Winter Reading Challenge
Profile Image for Debbie W..
760 reviews566 followers
February 28, 2021
After recently watching the movie Lion for the 4th time (and crying my eyes out each time), I decided right then that it was time to pull the book off my shelf and read it!

Previously published as A Long Way Home, the book gives greater insights into Saroo's journey, both physical and emotional, than the movie could, given its time constraints. I learned more about Saroo: his birth and adoptive parents' backgrounds (including his birth father), his blood siblings (he has another older brother!), Mantosh, his adoptive brother's story, his first days in Kolkata, his life in Tasmania, his trips back to India, and of his memories in greater detail. I could feel Saroo's fears, frustrations, despair, excitement and joy throughout the story. Even though I knew the outcome of Saroo's story, I would still get goosebumps whenever he made a major discovery.

The inclusion of 16 pages of captioned black and white photos, as well as a 2-page spread of a map of India titled "My Journey Across India", which indicates two possible routes Saroo may have took to Kolkata, added much-appreciated information to his story.

I do have to admit that although the book was a little more informative than the movie, it didn't stir as much emotion in me as the movie did. Overall, I recommend this heartwarming story about survival, perseverance, luck, hope and love.
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,044 reviews196 followers
June 23, 2014
At the age of five, Saroo an Indian boy becomes lost after after being separated from his brother. After traveling on a train for quite some time, Saroo ends up in Calcutta. Saroo is not only frightened and alone, but he is also faced with having to scavenge and beg for food for his survival. He has no idea of his surname or the village he comes from which make it extremely difficult to find his way back home. Life is looking very bleak for, Saroo and he worries if he'll ever see his family again.

After being in an orphanage for some time, Saroo's life takes a turn for the better after being adopted by an Australian couple who take him to live in his new home in Hobart, Tasmania. His adoptive parents are wonderful and loving people who do all they can to make Saroo feel at home. Even though Saroo has settled in very well with his adoptive parents he still thinks about he's family back in India. Will Saroo ever see his family again?

What a remarkable story about never giving up. This was an inspiring and heartwarming story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I have no hesitation in HIGHLY recommending this book.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews539 followers
April 19, 2018
Few life stories involve such impossible odds, incredible love, and sheer determiniation as Saroo Brierley's. For several years after watching 'Slumdog Millionaire', my mind kept returning to these little boys and their heartbreaking story.

When I started reading the book, after the title attracted me to it, I was unaware of Saroo Brierley's true story. After finishing the book I discovered that the movie "Lion" with Nicole Kidman in his Australian mother's role was made. I realized for the first time how big his story really became. He talked in the book of the press getting hold of it, but it never really dawned on me, or rather sunk in, how far and wide his amazing story traveled all over the world. And it is the most amazing story ever, of this five-year-old boy, born in extreme poverty in central India, who under calamitous and traumatic circumstances got lost at a train station and landed in an an orphanage, two thousand kilometers away from home, was adopted by Australian parents and decided 20 years later to find his family, even though he had the names of towns all wrong (almost right), and even pronounced his own name incorrectly.

All through his life he always worried about his little sister who he took care of since he was four years old. He still felt responsible for her. And he was worried that his older brother, who at fourteen years old, was the head of the family with many responsibilities, was still looking for him, after Saroo was left at the train station that night to wait on his brother. He worried about his mother who had to work as a brick carrier on construction sites to make ends meet, and had nobody to take care of his little sister.

With the help of Google Earth, it took him 4 years, but he never gave up. Mentally, I was so involved in his search, I even marked his memories on sticky notes to help him search. Total madness, I know, since he wrote the book after the fact. But I just burst out in tears when he found the water tower at the train station where he got separated from his older brother one night so many years ago. In my mind I told him: "Oh Saroo, let's go! Let's go! I feel it in my bones your mum is there!" Given the fact that he went through hundreds of towns and villages connected to railways and just could not find the right one. During the day he worked in his adoptive father's business, and at night he spent hours on Google Earth. In a country with almost 2 billion citizens, it was a daunting undertaking. Oy! Of course he did not really need me. :-)))

The title of this memoir is perfect. It was not only a journey of thousands of kilometers home, but also an emotional road through terrible memories and gut-wrenching losses. I could just imagine his biological mother's joy when he stood in front of her after twenty five years. Well, yours truly cried like a baby.

I haven't seen the movie, but the book was an emotional journey with a young five-year-old boy, who became a gentle giant with a mission in life. It was perfectly written. And they all lived happily ever after, and so did I. There are several videos and interviews available on Youtube which I still must watch. Can't wait.

It is not a story that you will easily forget. It's a miracle, really. I loved the tone of the book. The innocence of the little boy is so well portrayed and brings a charm to the book, which makes it authentic. It's really well-written.
Profile Image for Lucy.
455 reviews86 followers
October 20, 2021
This is a heartbreaking and uplifting story about a lost boy who grew up to have two families. In an honest and open way, Brierley recounts his experience as the lost 5-year old who grew up to find a second family and unexpected fame.

This is a story that truly speaks to the resilience and good of humankind. The people who helped him along the way are remarkable. From the his days as a lost boy in the dangerous streets of India to his established life in Australia, Brierley's journey has been an unimaginable experience. Truly unforgettable.

I’m now looking forward to watching the movie Lion, which is based on this story.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,743 reviews6,669 followers
January 7, 2017
A Long Way Home is Saroo Brierley's personal account of finding himself tragically lost from his family at the young age of 5 years old. His journey back to his birth mother 25 years later is a truly amazing story. The fact that he survived before (and after) being discovered as homeless is a miracle in itself. Despite my thoughts about the astonishing facts, I have mixed feelings about this reading experience. In my perspective, this memoir was very to-the-point and caused it to feel disappointingly one-dimensional. A little help with the writing and overall storytelling could have added personality and allowed this piece of nonfiction to pull at the heartstrings and keep the reader on the edge of suspense, because when you think about Saroo's experiences, those emotions are within reach. I plan to watch the film adaptation: Lion and have no doubt it will more than make up for my lack of connection to the book. Regardless, A Long Way Home is a story to be heard and I don't regret reading it.

My favorite quote:
"Today there are perhaps a hundred thousand homeless kids in Kolkata, and a good many of them die before they reach adulthood ... No one knows how many Indian children have been trafficked into the sex trade, or slavery, or even for organs, but all these trades are thriving, with too few officials and too many kids."
September 23, 2018
I discovered this book in the new section of books in Waterstones. I had seen the trailer for the film, and I bought it really for the sheer hell of it. I'm glad I made that decision that day.
This is a remarkable story of discovery, which in turn, has it's share of utter heartbreak and dispair as we are taken along Saroo's emotional journey. When five year old Saroo gets separated from his brother at a train station in India, he experiences a spontaneous moment, where he boards the train in front of him to find his brother. This takes him on a huge journey, even further away from his family, and eventually(without saying too much), he ends up being adopted by an Australian couple.

What makes this story all the more harrowing and at the same time, inspirational, is that it's true. This is not fiction. This actually happened, and that for me, makes it all the more shocking.

For me, what surprised me, was the length of time it took, or still takes, to adopt internationally. Now, I can understand the legislation, interviews and endless amounts of paperwork, but five years is a long time. Adoptees, like Saroo's parents, don't go into this lightly. They go into it knowing it's a lifelong commitment, and they have a great deal of love to give. Being adopted myself, I can appreciate how long the process is, and the completely amazing and selfless act that these people go through, just to give a child a new and good life.

I can greatly understand Saroo's quest to go and meet his birth Mother after all those years.
I also think it is grand that he is able to share his love with his adoptive parents, and his birth Mother and maintain those relationships to a level that all are comfortable and happy with. I think when you are adopted, you always wonder where you "Came from" Even though you love your adoptive parents to the moon and back, there is always this hole, that can never be filled. In this case, Saroo made the right decision to discover his roots again and to get answers to unanswered questions that had been gnawing away at him for 25 years.
I have a lot of love for this book.
Profile Image for Laura.
75 reviews49 followers
August 17, 2022
Lion: A Long Way Home is the memoir of Saroo Brierley. When Brierley was five years old in India, he was separated from his brother and was not able to find his way back to his family. I enjoyed learning about the author’s life, from his childhood in poverty, having to survive on the streets, living in institutions, being adopted abroad, and ultimately, finding his way back to his birth family.

I really appreciated Brierley’s discussions about his relationships with his adoptive family and his birth family. I feel like some books featuring adoption end up being either pro- or anti-adoption, but Brierley has made room in his life for both families. The author includes photographs in the book as well, which I always love. This is an inspiring story I liked reading from start to finish.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,779 reviews14.2k followers
June 9, 2020
Saroo was five years old when he found himself alone and on the streets of Calcutta. Surviving by eating scraps of food, sleeping in hidden areas. After several close calls, he is eventually found and sent to an orphanage. Unable to find his family from his descriptions, he is adopted and sent to live his new life in Australia. Years later has an adult he attempts again to find the family he lost. This is the story of his journey.

I'm a doubting Thomas, I freely admit it, but I can't believe he could remember all the details he does at that young an age. I think back to when I was five, after my parents divorced, and remember little. Plus there is quite a bit of what I call filler to pad the story. Don't get me wrong, I did find this heartbreaking in parts and I admire him for all the adversity he had to conquer. I just doubt the veracity of part of his story. I could very possibly be wrong.

The narrator was Vikas Adam and I thought he was excellent. 4 stars.
Profile Image for K..
3,796 reviews1,021 followers
February 7, 2017
Good Lord. FEELINGS.

This book is effectively two separate stories:
1. How Saroo got lost and ended up being adopted by an Australian family.
2. Saroo's search for his home 20 years later.

The first story is horrifying when you think about all the ways that his story could have ended differently. The second is nothing short of astonishing. Not only that he managed to find a needle in a haystack on Google Earth, but that his mother had made the decision to stay in the same neighbourhood for 20+ years on the off chance that her son found his way home again.

I'm pretty stinking excited to see the movie version now to compare the two. Although I think I'll hold off until I can watch it in the comfort of my own home with a very large box of tissues and no one to judge me for sobbing periodically...
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,647 followers
June 6, 2017
This is an extraordinary story, told by the person who lived it. Part of me is still “in” the story and I only hope that it doesn’t hinder me from expressing how truly wonderful this book is.

First: The Writing. Maybe an odd place to start, but when we read a book, that’s the first introduction to the story we get. The words. The writing. “Lion” is written with great humbleness, with gratitude, with simplicity and utter straightforwardness. In that way it captured me completely and continued through to the very end.

Second: The Story. Saroo’s family lived every parent’s nightmare – losing a child. Saroo himself experienced the terrors and the bewilderment of finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time locked into a car on a train that ended up far from his home. There was no “Lost Child Officer” to report to, he could not make himself understood to the people he approached, and he wasn’t even sure how to pronounce the name of his village or the larger center where he boarded the train. He was 5 years old, and even mispronounced his name. He was born “Sheru” which means Lion. That was his first piece of good luck.

Third: The Story, Part 2. Imagine being 5 years old, miles from anyone you know, in one of the most densely populated – and dangerous – cities in the world. His adventures and misadventures of living on the streets for several weeks were stories Saroo later told himself in his mind over and over so he wouldn’t forget. The landmarks and directions of his home village and the town where he boarded the train were etched indelibly in his mind so he would be able to find it again if he could. Meantime, how was he to survive a lifestyle that took the lives of millions of children in this huge cauldron of humanity with woes so large that those of a lost child aren’t even noticed?

Fourth: The Story, Part 3. Fate, luck, destiny, all that is Holy – call it what you will, but intervention in what could have been a tragic ending entered Saroo’s life just when it was needed most. Within a few short months, he found himself on an airplane to Australia and ultimately to Tasmania where his adoptive parents, Sue and John Brierly eagerly awaited him.

Fifth: The Story, Part 4. Saroo has nothing but love and respect in his tone and writing about his adoptive family. He describes many of the wonders of his new world from his child’s eyes, and thanks to his loving parents he manages to retain that wonder – and his sense of gratitude – throughout his growing up years. Nevertheless, his memories, always kept on a low simmer in the back of his mind continue to wait for him to softly breathe them back to life.

Sixth: The Story, Part 5. Eventually, Saroo recognizes that he needs to try to find his birth family because his questions and concern about their welfare are always going to be a part of him. The timing is perfect as technology has supplied valuable tools (primarily via Google Earth and Facebook) that help him in his quest. His family and his girl-friend are also supportive and this support mitigates the obsession to find his village to a compulsive level everyone can live with.

Seventh: The Story, Part 6. The reunion with his family and his determination to take the same journey as his 5-year-old self are deeply moving and touching. He makes the trip a few times during the latter part of the book and one of those times his two mothers meet for the first time. They are each so grateful for the role of the other in this man’s life that words are not even necessary to describe the emotional impact they have on each other. The smiles, and tears, say it all. Of his trip where he travels the train line he believes took him from his home, and visits the places that impacted him at age 5 in the city that was then known as Calcutta, Saroo Brierly says, “I would never have imagined when I left here that I would one day willingly return, a tourist to my old terrors.”

This is a sad, frightening, and ultimately beautiful story that is shared with disarming frankness, with respect, and with dignity.
Profile Image for Sarah.
402 reviews138 followers
December 19, 2016
3.5 Stars.

I found out about this book when I watched the trailer for the 2016 movie "Lion". The trailer had me in tears and then when I saw it was based on this true story, I knew I had to read this. First of all, it is an incredible and heartbreaking story. I can't even fathom how Saroo, a 5 year old Indian boy survived for weeks on the streets by himself. So many awful things could have happened to him but he was extremely lucky that no major harm came to him and he was even luckier to get adopted by an amazing Australian couple. This story will blow you away and the story itself is reason alone to read this book.

For the most part, Saroo Brierley was a great storyteller. He really told a comprehensive story about his life before he was separated from his family in India. We got to know things about his siblings, his parents, the people that were in his community and all about his life. I enjoyed reading about his life and family in Australia too. I felt at times things were dragged out a bit too much though. The part about riding on the train journey again as an adult and the constant researching kind of bored me at times. I do feel conflicted regarding the way he wrote this memoir; I enjoyed it because it was comprehensive, detailed and logical but I kind of wish he wrote with more emotion. Maybe it was hard for him to really convey past emotions or something but I just felt like there could have been more about his feelings and thoughts. I'm not saying that it wasn't emotional, it was, but I just wanted more. I wanted to feel more connected to Saroo.

Also something that kind of irked me was the fact that in the book, Saroo says he tells his dad & mom at different times and in person that he found his old hometown but in the 60 minute show (I watched that after I read this) it was said that he texted them in the middle of the night. I know it's something small but it's just if the book version was wrong then what else in the book wasn't the actual truth? Just me being a particular Sally, I know, but it did kind of bother me!

So overall, I liked this book. At times it was a little slow and there were a few redundant things in the book but I would definitely recommend this. I will watch the movie soon and hopefully I will like it as much as I liked this.


“She described it as sometimes feeling so disoriented that she didn’t know where the sky ended and the ground began.”
Profile Image for Ron.
394 reviews96 followers
July 16, 2017
Saroo was only five years old when he followed his older brother (himself only 14) to work along the train stations not far from his home. As Saroo fell asleep on a platform bench, Guddu his brother told him, “Just sit down, and don’t move. I’ll come back in a little while.” Waking up hours later to a dark, deserted platform, Saroo’s not certain why he stepped onto the empty train car standing before him. In all likelihood, it was to find his brother. The circumstances that would then put him alone, more than 1600 kilometers from home and family, are tragic and incredible, but the story of his survival, the intervening 25 years with a new family, and the eventual finding of home again, are inspirational.

I watched the movie Lion , then picked up the book written by Saroo Brierley one week later. The story is just that amazing.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,222 reviews2,729 followers
October 6, 2016
When Saroo Brierley was born, he was born into poverty in a small town in India. Of course he wasn’t Saroo Brierley then, and when he became lost he was only five, and could only remember his name was Saroo. His early childhood was happy in his memory. He and his siblings were always hungry, but that was a fact of life. They spent their days begging for food, eating scraps from the ground and doing the best they could. They were the typical impoverished children with big tummys bloated from gas, thin and malnourished. The four of them lived with their mother, as their father had deserted them to take a second wife. So their hardship was intense. Saroo’s responsibility was to look after his baby sister while their mother worked. Their two older brothers would try to find food, working for a few rupee in hopes of buying enough for a meal.

The night Saroo’s life began its dramatic and dangerous turn, he had gone with his oldest brother on the pushbike, and was told to wait at the train station for him. After waking from sleep and finding himself alone, he panicked and boarded a train, ultimately finding himself in Calcutta many hours later. The next few weeks were terrifying, lonely and intensely dangerous as he lived on the streets with only his wits to help him, but finally the kindness of a stranger turned his life around.

When he was adopted by a lovely couple by the name of Brierley and taken to his new home in Hobart in Tasmania, his life was new, strange but wonderful as well. His memories of his home in India were kept alive by his adoptive parents, and his transition into an Australian lifestyle was not the trauma that it was for some.

The story of Saroo’s life from his very early days in India, the trauma when he was lost, the transportation to Australia and his new life, then his growing up through school, teenage years and beyond, plus the beginning of his serious search for his home town in India with few details is an awe inspiring and inspirational one. His determination along with the love and support of his parents, and the help of strangers is wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It is beautifully told, with the emotions see-sawing throughout. This is a highly recommendable book by an amazing young man who has been willing to share his experiences and his life with us all.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy to read and review.
Profile Image for ♥ Sandi ❣	.
1,320 reviews18 followers
March 8, 2017
Great story wrapped in a short book. It details the treacherous journey of not only a 5 year old as he leaves his home in India, but also the exhausting journey of a 30 year old as he finds his way back to that home.
Written as a memoir, this starts as a heart breaking story. It is easy to read, but gripping in detail and frustrating in fact.
It has become the 2017 Oscar nominated movie - Lions.

4.25 stars
Profile Image for mohsen pourramezani.
160 reviews133 followers
June 9, 2017
داستان واقعی یک پسر هندی به اسم سارو است که در پنج‌سالگی توی ایستگاه قطار برادرش را گم می‌کند. به صورت اتفاقی توی یک قط��ر گیر می‌افتد و به شهر دیگری می‌رود. مدتی در خیابان زندگی می‌کند و با کمک یک خانواده به یتیم‌خانه می‌رود. یک زوج استرالیایی فرزندخواندگی‌اش را به عهده می‌گیرند و او را به استرالیا می‌برند. بعد از ۲۶ سال سارو موفق می‌شود آدرس خانواده‌اش را در هند پیدا کند.
پ.ن: اولین بار بود که یک کتاب طولانی انگلیسی زبان می‌خواندم و به همین دلیل خواندنش خیلی طول کشید. احتمالا جزئیاتی را هم به خاطر زبان ضعیفم از دست داده‌ام، اما همیشه دوست داشتم یک خواندن یک کتاب زبان اصلی را تجربه کنم و این کتاب تجربه خوبی بود
کتاب را توی سفری که به هند داشتم خریدم. وقتی می‌خواستیم برگردیم، «کتاب ببر سفید» را که با خودم به این سفر آورده بودم تمام کردم و نگران بودم توی مسیر برگشت که قرار بود کلی توی فرودگاه علاف شویم، چیزی برای خواندن نداشته باشم. این کتاب را توی فرودگاه بمبئی پیدا کردم. یکی از دلایل جذابیت‌های کتاب هم همین سفر بود که باعث می‌شد حال‌و‌هوای چیزهایی که توی کتاب توصیف می‌کرد برایم آشنا باشد، مثل محله زاغه‌نشین‌ها و زندگی مسلمان‌ها و هندوها در کنار هم و چیزهایی از این قبیل.
بر اساس این کتاب فیلمی هم ساخته شده که دوست نداشتم تا تمام نشدن کتاب ببینمش ولی حالا با خیال راحت می‌توانم بروم این فیلم را ببینم.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,379 reviews139 followers
August 10, 2023
What an incredible story.

Saroo was five years old when he got separated from his elder brother at a busy train station in India. He didn't know his surname, his mother's name, or even the town where he lived.

From there, Saroo eventually ended up in Australia after being adopted overseas.

Amazingly, decades later, he found his birth mother.

I remember seeing the film bring promoted years ago, but I'm glad I read the book and got to hear Saroo's account in his own words.

It's really incredible.

Five stars.
Profile Image for Woman Reading .
432 reviews285 followers
April 12, 2021
Remarkable circumstances displayed little Saroo's proverbial 9 lives of a cat (or lion cub).

A young child went off with his teenaged brother for an evening adventure, and neither returned home. This is the stuff of parental nightmares, no matter which country of residence. But this situation was worsened by the limited circumstances of both the family and their nation.

In rural India in the mid-1980s, the two brothers separated after Saroo, the younger boy, was instructed by 14 year old Guddu to wait for him inside the train station. After waking from a nap, Saroo was anxious and boarded a train looking for Guddu. Saroo did not find his brother. When he finally exited the train, he was about 1,000 miles from home, in a part of the vast subcontinent that spoke a language different than in his home state.

A Long Way Home is his account of his early childhood, survival on the streets of Calcutta (today's Kolkata), adoption by an Australian couple, and a reunion, 25 years late, with his biological family.

Saroo's family had been abandoned by Saroo's father. In the mid-1980s, his family consisted of his mother, two older brothers and a younger sister. His mother's wages as an unskilled laborer weren't enough to keep the family fed. So his two older brothers also hustled on the streets, leaving Saroo in charge of their youngest sister.
Hunger and poverty steal your childhood and take away your innocence and sense of security.

I could envision the squalor and see how those circumstances could cultivate strong survival instincts. I do not doubt that the street urchins of India faced dangers from those who wanted them for organ harvesting, sexual abuse, or other criminal rackets. But I had difficulty in believing every early childhood vignette, such as Saroo being hired to transport 10 huge watermelons by himself.

Human memory is a slippery thing as any trial lawyer would attest. Psychologists have found that we can invent "memories" because our imaginations are so powerful. But strong negative events can also sear themselves into memory. I believe the basic outline of Saroo's story but also suspect some embellishment during his early years. Saroo himself admits the holes in his memory when he replicated his childhood train journey. There were inconsistencies - from the likelihood of changing trains to the amount of time that had truly elapsed. Saroo had also forgotten his own name, which was "Sheru" ("lion" in English).

I most question the issue of Saroo's age. He asserted that he was five when he became lost. But in chapters 2 and 11, his siblings' ages do not concur. In the former, there's a gap of 9 years between him and Guddu, but in the latter, the difference is only 6 years. I find the childhood tales to be more plausible of a child older than 5 years. My doubts, however, don't detract from Saroo's ultimate message.
My return seemed to inspire and energize the neighborhood, as though it was evidence that the hard luck of life did not have to rule you. Some time miracles do happen.

... providing me with an unshakable faith in the importance of family - however it is formed - and a belief in the goodness of people and the importance of grasping opportunities as they are presented.

I liked A Long Way Home, as it was an easy, straightforward read. I was interested in his second parents' motivations, which were quite exceptional. This bio had some introspection from Saroo. But when I consider his extraordinary circumstances, this memoir didn't elicit a very strong emotional response from me, hence my rating of 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
678 reviews3,945 followers
January 18, 2018
ever since I first heard about Saroo's story through the Australian media it has fascinated me. It is a harrowing story, but also such an incredible one. It is amazing to me that he managed to survive those weeks on the streets of Culcutta, being so severely separated from his family, and then managed to find his way back years later equipped with Google Earth and a few childhood memories.

I adored the movie version and I've been meaning to finally get to the actual biography for years and FINALLY I have done it and I'm so glad. Saroo's writing is captivating, and he describes the events in a way that capture the atmosphere and mood, both joy and horror, while also maintaining a narrative voice that is engaging and funny.

The ending of the story is so heartwarming and honestly amazing, but also so sad .

This is such a genuinely amazing true story, proving that fact is sometimes stranger then fiction, and I really think people should either read this or watch the movie which is INCREDIBLY similar to the book (and also has some really beautiful cinematography and stars my main man Dev Patel)
Profile Image for Aqsa.
291 reviews306 followers
Shelved as 'tbr-soon'
April 28, 2019
Watched the movie today, and of course I cried at the end. I cannot compare to the book just yet, but it was really beautiful and sad and heart-warming how 5 year old Saroo gets lost and tries to find his way back home after 25 years with nothing but a vague memory of his childhood, his mother, his little sister and his best friend and brother Guddu, and Google Earth.
Profile Image for Jen from Quebec :0).
404 reviews86 followers
April 25, 2017
It is NOT often that I say this, but-- I actually cannot wait to watch the film version of this (yes, I know it was nominated for the Oscar) because I think it will make a better film than book! Blasphemy, I know! Perhaps, if the protagonist were an actual author instead of just a normal guy trying to write his incredible story I would not feel this way....but, the book left me wanting better details/descriptions/emotions and I think the film will be great. --Jen from Quebec :0)
Profile Image for Arianne Mix.
210 reviews1 follower
October 18, 2014
I really liked the first quarter of the book when he recollected his experiences as a boy in India. I love memoirs and this was right up my alley. The rest of the book was about his doubts and feelings of depression and his confusion and blah blah blah. It drove me crazy. He grew up in a beautiful, good family in Australia and the story of his adoption as a 5 yr. old was fascinating. But reading about his obsessive search for his family for over 100 pages was awful--he did all of his searching on google maps. So he told about how he spent hours every evening scouring all of India for a familiar landmark. Over. And Over. And Over. Then reading about how he felt about everything for another 50 pages was not fun, so I eventually stopped. :) Also, it wasn't very well written.

So: Really cool story, but it could have been told with just as much content and umph in about 60 pages.
Profile Image for bookswithpaulette.
494 reviews184 followers
March 23, 2019
This is a beautifully, heartbreaking memoir. 5 year old Saroo, is lost and alone, he is locked in a carriage on a train that is speeding away from his home town taking him to an unknown destination…… 24 hours or so later he finds himself in the big city of Calcutta.

Far from his small home town. With limited information of where he is from, family name etc the authorities are unable to locate his family. Eventually Saroo is adopted and flown to a loving family in Australia where he builds a new life.

His old life back in India with his family is never far from his mind….. fast forward to Saroo as a 30 year old man, he is determined to retrace his steps from that night he became lost to go back, find his hometown and be reunited with his brothers, sister and mother.

It is a fabulous story of courage, love and above all hope. I recommend this book, bring the tissues
Profile Image for Irene ➰.
578 reviews81 followers
March 11, 2018
3.5/5 ~ Very strong and powerful story, but the execution wasn’t one of my favorites. Shortly after I saw the movie, that hit me right in the feels.
The book is still a good add of this incredible journey. I very enjoyed the first half (young Saroo memories), while I struggled a little to get through the second half (adult Saroo).
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