Review: Lion by Saroo Brierley or The Search for Self

Lion is the true story of a five-year old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, is adopted by an Australian family and retraces his Indian family and roots 25 years after the incident. It depicts the poverty of the Indian People back in the 80’s and it is obviously spiced with the culture shock that a five year old would suffer when moving from India to Australia.

But beyond all that, Lion is about the search for self. Saroo gets lost at a train-station and tries in vain to go back home. He lives in the streets, begs, is finally taken to an orphanage and then adopted. He is no longer a poor Indian boy, but a middle-class Aussie.

You might accuse me of giving away too many spoilers. But please believe me, this novel is not about what happens next. It is about what you feel when reading it.

Saroo is happy with his life in Australia. He acknowledges the fact that he was extremely lucky to be adopted by a loving family, before international adoption became a very complicated process. On the other hand, he never forgets his origins, his biological mother, his two brothers and little sister.

It is interesting to notice that, what I call the quest for self, begins and develops at moments when Saroo is alone. When he no longer lives with his parents as a student. When he moves home. When he breaks up with his first girlfriend. It is then when his thoughts go to India, it is then when he discovers Google Earth and starts to seriously consider finding his old home. Obviously, the road is long and arduous, but it is exactly Saroo’s determination that makes the reader be aware of his thirst for identity.

Saroo states in the novel that he always knew who he was. But underneath the deceptive words you quickly come to realize that all his actions were the result of his search for his real self. Would finding his home and his family be the final step? Would it bring him closure? How would he feel about having two families?

Saroo does find his Indian family and becomes at peace with himself, but, anew, it is a long process. When finding his family, all his childhood memories come to life. Although he grew up and lived in a far more developed country than India, the middle-class Aussie is still Indian at heart. Torn between two identities, lucky (or confused) to have two families half-way across the world, Saroo Brierley tries to build a happy life starting from the unhappy event of getting lost in a train-station at the age of five. His actions, and more importantly his feelings, will leave you bewildered and wanting for more!


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