I have a confession to make.
For years I was one of “those” readers. The ones who fervently refused to try audiobooks. I didn’t look down on those who did, I just never thought I would enjoy it myself. It is with great humility that I admit *sigh* I was wrong. Oh so wrong.
I had two reasons for not wanting to try audiobooks: 1) I didn’t want someone else dictating the pacing or emphasis for me, and 2) my mind tends to wander quite a bit when I read and it’s harder to find your place again on an audiobook, much less flip back and forth to look up information and get refreshers.
That last one remains a problem, but I have found it usually doesn’t make much of a difference if I space out for short periods of time. I can either get the gist or rewind to find what I missed. As for the first one, that problem is solved by making sure you only listen to audiobooks with really great narrators. It’s why I usually only listen to audiobooks that have been recommended to me.
The point is, not only have I grown accustomed to audiobooks, I have come to depend on them. In addition to listening to them while I do housework, I also walk a lot because I don’t have a car and I love sneaking in some bookish time while I run errands. So the last time I ran out of audiobook, not only did I have a bunch on hold through my local library, but I couldn’t wait for one to become available, so I started surfing through the new arrivals on Overdrive and this one happened to catch my eye. Since it’s a memoir in which Brierley recounts his adventures traversing India via rail, flying to Australia, and finding his way back to his home town as an adult, I figure it fits Book Riot’s eighth requirement for their 2017 Read Harder Challenge. Score!
OK, now about the actual book. As I said, it’s a memoir. The author, Saroo Brierley, does not narrate it, but the guy who did, Vikas Adam, has an Australian accent and sounds (to this white girl’s ears) like he’s got the right pronunciation of the Hindi words that were used, so I imagine he sounds a lot like Brierley. I certainly had no complaints about him as a narrator.
Brierley was born in India where he spent the first five years of his life with his mom, two older brothers, and younger sister until he was about five years old. Then he went out with one of his brothers and never made it back home. He and his brother got separated and Brierley ended up traveling on several different trains until he ended up in what was then known as Calcutta. After weeks of living on the street, and some misadventures, he ends up in an orphanage. Shortly after that he was adopted by what sounds like a truly lovely couple from Australia.
They raised Brierley and he makes it clear he loves them dearly, but he still made a conscious effort to remember as much as he could because he didn’t want to forget his first family.
Because he was so young when got lost, Brierley doesn’t really know where he came from. His adoptive parents thought he was from Calcutta, because that’s what his adoption papers said, and it took him a while to process everything enough to tell them how he had ridden various trains from his hometown before he ended up in Calcutta and he wasn’t sure where his home was. All he had were vague memories of the names of train stations, and he wasn’t even sure about those.
It wasn’t until after college that Brierley started working in earnest to find his home town. With help from the Internet and a newfangled invention called Google Earth, Brierley used information from fellow Indian immigrants to narrow down his search. He would start at a train station and follow a set of tracks until he found the next train station or the area started to look familiar.
It took him more than a year of dedicated searching, but, against all odds, he found it. And returned to his home town as a grown man, with Indian features but westernized clothes, grooming, and habits and remembering very little Hindi. And still he was able to be reunited with his mother, sister, and one of his brothers. The brother he was with the day he got lost had been killed in a train accident shortly after Brierley had gotten lost, making a double tragedy for the family.
Nothing about this book jumped out at me as making it a fantastic book. The writing was good, but not great. Mostly it’s just super impressive that a five-year-old boy managed to survive on his own on the streets as long as he did, let alone the fact that he managed to find his way back. His description of how he lived with his family before getting lost also served as a great reminder to me of the many ways in which I am privileged to live as I do.
What did you guys read this week? Anything you happened along by accident?