Lion by Saroo Brierly

#BeatTheBacklist book 13
2017 book 13

Format: Print (paperback)
Length: 288 pages
Published: 2013

Saroo Brierley’s memoir was originally titled A Long Way Home.  A movie adaptation was released last year.  Saroo was born in a poor family in India.  When he was about 5 years old he got lost on a train and ended up in Calcutta alone.  He survived a few weeks on the streets there before ending up in an orphanage.   Within months he was adopted by a family in Australia.  Over 20 years later he found his birth family by using google earth and his recollections of landmarks and garbled pronunciations of town names.

Saroo’s story is incredible.   It is simply amazing that he survived his time on the streets and that he remembered so much about his home town after so many years.  His search for his Indian home was literally a needle in a haystack search.  It is pretty much a miracle that it worked and I do not use the M word lightly.  You would have to be a statue not to be moved by Saroo’s story, but (here’s the part where I sound like a jerk) the writing was just meh.  Is it wrong that I think he should have used a ghost writer?   The story is powerful enough that the writing could have been much worse and it still would be worth reading, but if it were a work of fiction it would have been a bust. I kept reading because I knew this was a true story.  If it were fiction, I would have scrapped it because the writing just wasn’t compelling.

I have two main issues with the writing.  First, I knew after two pages everything that was going to happen.  My opening paragraph in this review is essentially the information provided on page one of the book, which is pretty much everything that happens.  Details are added as the story is told in long form, but you’ve got the beginning middle and end laid out for you right there.  Secondly, The writing is wooden.  I feel guilty for wishing that his account was more entertaining, but I guess I just need to own it.  His recollections fail to convey the emotional experience.  He names emotions and if you are even remotely human you can imagine the feelings, but nothing about the writing makes his story come alive.  Lion was a quick read, though, and the story resonates despite the stilted writing.

I am attempting to read 50 books this year published before 2017 for a Beat The Backlist Challenge.  You can see a list of the books I am reading with links to my ramblings and reviews here.  The list is evolving and I am always looking for suggestions for older books and new releases.  

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