Long Way From Home

If you have seen the movie Lion, then you have met young Saroo Brierley.  The movie version was taken from Saroo’s memoir A Long Way Home (2013).  It is Saroo’s story as a 5-year-old and his journey from India to Australia and his eventual return to India as an adult 25 years later.

The Prologue lets the reader into what happens when Saroo arrives at the spot he last saw 25 years earlier.  From there you will begin to experience what all young Saroo went through as a 5-year- old.  Reading his memoir is like listening to a friend relate tales of his/her travels.

The reader is introduced to the Australian couple who adopted Saroo, Sue and John Brierley.  As his story moves between India and Australia you learn about Saroo’s life in both places.  The chapter titles will easily take you on that journey.

You will learn about the life Saroo and his family lived in India.  Their home was a tiny, tiny space with his mother Kamla, brothers, Guddu and Kallu plus his little sister, Shakila.  His father left so his mother was the sole wage earner.  She worked carrying rocks on her head 6 long days a week for about $1.30.  His brothers learned to scavenge and beg so the family could eat.  Saroo was in charge of his younger sister.

That was Saroo’s life until he was left on a train platform one evening by his brother.  His brother told him to sit there and not move.  Saroo fell asleep.  When he awoke, his whole life changed.

Keep in mind the little guy is only five.  He cannot read or write.  Does not know his last name or the town where he lives.  I saw the movie version before I read the book.  As always, the book offers more details.  One knows right from the beginning little Saroo survives.  What made it difficult for me to read was I envisioned our grandkids at that age being lost, alone, frightened and hungry.  Heartbreaking.

After six unimaginable weeks on the streets of Calcutta (Kolkata), Saroo’s life takes a turn for the better.  He is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by the Brierleys.

Saroo’s life in Tasmania was quite different from his first five years of living in India.  He was encouraged to remember his life in India.  It was not unusual for him to replay moments in his mind in an effort to keep memories of time in India alive.

It was those memories and pictures in his mind, plus the map of India the Brierleys had on his bedroom wall along with the perks of living in the electronic age that led Saroo in his journey back to his family.  Taking those memories along with using Google Earth, satellite images and Facebook Saroo finally found his home.

A Long Way Home is worthy the read.  I think it is good to be reminded that so many others in this world of ours do not have the opportunities and resources we take for granted.

A Long Way from Home (2002) by Tom Brokaw tells a very different version of growing up.  I would really be surprised if there is one resident in Tanglewood who has not heard of and/or ever seen Tom Brokaw.  He has been a part of the American media landscape since the early 1950s.

Normally I do not read too many autobiographies, especially of celebrities.  They always seem like “look at me” books.  It was the photo on the cover that drew me to this particular book.  And, I am glad it did its job.  I enjoyed reading about this all-American boy.

The importance of South Dakota and his relatives who settled there played an important part in who Tom Brokaw is today.  His ancestors were counted among the early settlers of the Dakota Territory.  Brokaw’s great grandfather arrived via wagon train after the Civil War.  His maternal great grandfather was the son of Irish immigrants who made a living farming. Brokaw was born in 1940 in the small South Dakota town of Webster.  He left South Dakota in 1962.

Through his story, Brokaw ties events of the time to how it all affected the way of living for his relatives.  And, ultimately how it touched his life.

Many places in South Dakota still had no electricity or indoor plumbing when he was young.  And how many of you recall party lines, if you had a telephone.  Work, long hours of work, was a way of life.

Brokaw learned to work from both parents.    For instance, his mother taught him and his brother how was and iron clothes.  They also learned to use a needle and thread to make minor repairs.  These are tasks that have come in handy many times over.

WWII gave the Brokaw’s opportunities to see other parts of South Dakota with his dad’s job as part of the Army Corps of engineers.  It was during this time his family’s daily life “revolved around work, family, school, church, community.”

Notice no television.  News came via radio and two instate newspapers plus the Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Tribune.  Brokaw delivered all three newspapers to the north end of town.

Sports entered his life and he has vivid memories of those times be it football, basketball or baseball.  Not only organized sports but outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing.  Both of which he still enjoys.

I could go on and on because he is not even through high school yet, still has college to attempt.  He has no qualms sharing his shortcomings and does not come close to patting himself on the back.

Tom Brokaw was not perfect.  He does know he was privileged because of his color.  His current life is a long way from his growing up home but South Dakota is still a big part of him.

A Long Way from Home is a very pleasant read.  The edition in on the Tanglewood shelves is Large Print.  Enjoy.



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