Young Saroo loves his older brothers, especially Guddu, who at 14 is less and less at home. One night in 1986, Guddu comes back to his family’s poor village in India for about an hour, and 5-year-old Saroo can’t contain his excitement. When Guddu announces that he’s leaving, Saroo declares that he’s going off into the night with his older brother.

And so begins Saroo Brierley’s great misadventure and his 25-year search for home, which he recounts dramatically in A Long Way Home. That night, young Saroo becomes separated from his brother and begins several days of searching, begging and riding the rails in an attempt to find his brother or get back home.

Saroo eventually lands in Calcutta, where he joins the teeming masses of children scavenging for food, running from bullies and searching for a safe place to sleep through one more night. Turned over to the police by a kind teenage boy, he lands in an orphanage, where, for the first time in months, he has food and a clean bed.

It’s not long before a family adopts Saroo, and on September 25, 1987, he flies to Australia to meet the Brierleys and begin his new life in a faraway land. He thrives as Saroo Brierley, excelling in sports and academics. Yet, several questions haunt him: Is his mother still alive in India? What about Guddu? How can he find his way back to his village, since he can’t remember the name of the place or where it’s located?

In a development that made headlines around the world in 2012, Saroo is eventually able to locate his village, principally by poring over satellite images on Google Earth. He reunites with his family in India, yet never abandons his adoptive family in Australia. Instead, he writes that he “is not conflicted about who I am or where to call home. I now have two families, not two identities.”

Though Brierley’s prose lacks polish, his story is undeniably moving and will appeal to any reader captivated by the pursuit of a dream that won’t die.

 

This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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