A Long Way Home


Saroo Brierley

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A Long Way Home Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Saroo Brierley's A Long Way Home. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Saroo Brierley

As Saroo’s memoir explains, he was born in the small central Indian town of Khandwa to a Muslim father and a Hindu mother. He was their third child and was actually born with the name Sheru. His father effectively left the family when Saroo was very young, so Saroo, his brothers, and their mother had to do whatever they could to support the family. They were extremely poor, and Saroo and his siblings were often left home alone for days at a time. When he was five, he mistakenly boarded a train for the city of Calcutta, one of the most dangerous cities in India. He survived for weeks on the streets until he came to the attention of the authorities. The birthday he celebrates is one given to him by the Calcutta authorities; they estimated the year, and the month and day are the date that he arrived at the orphanage. Within seven months, he was adopted by a family in Tasmania, Australia and became Saroo Brierley. He completed a degree in hospitality as a young man, but began working with his father in the family hosepipe business after graduating. While he was in college, he began using Google Earth to look for his hometown, and he finally succeeded after five years of searching. He returned to Khandwa for the first time in 2011 and was able to reconnect with his mother, younger sister, and older brother. He’s been back several times since, and is doing what he can to help his nieces and nephews, buy his mother a house, and support the orphanage in Calcutta that facilitated his adoption. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania.
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Historical Context of A Long Way Home

The subject of international adoption can be a tricky one. Some people, such as Sue Brierley (Saroo’s adoptive mother), believe that international adoption should be made easier and be less regulated so that more people will feel able to do it, while others take a child’s-rights standpoint and insist that there need to be more regulations guiding international adoption. Legally, the second view has more traction. The first international law governing international adoption was passed months after Saroo’s adoption went through in 1987, and two more have followed in the years since. Each country sets its own rules and guidelines for adoption, which can make navigating those rules especially challenging for prospective parents. In much of the world, the U.S. and Australia included, infants and babies under a year old are in extremely high demand for adoption, while older children such as Saroo and Mantosh are overwhelmingly not adopted—though children in their age group make up the majority of adoptable children in many countries. This can, in some cases, lead to a practice known as baby stealing, where people actually kidnap infants to feed the international adoption market. Practices like these are what child’s-rights advocates overwhelmingly wish to stop.

Other Books Related to A Long Way Home

There are a number of memoirs like Saroo’s that follow adopted children as they reconnect with their birth families. These include books like Lucky Girl: A Memoir by Mei-Ling Hopgood, who is contacted by her Chinese birth family when she’s in her twenties, and Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey by Jackie Kay. Books about adoption from parents’ perspectives include The Russian Word for Snow: A True Story of Adoption, which details two American parents’ struggle to adopt a toddler from Russia on the eve of the election of an anti-American leader, as well as No Biking In the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Green, which takes a humorous look at her life as a parent to four biological children and five adopted children from both Ethiopia and Bulgaria.
Key Facts about A Long Way Home
  • Full Title: A Long Way Home: A Boy’s Incredible Journey from India to Australia and Back Again
  • When Written: 2012-13
  • Where Written: Hobart, Tasmania
  • When Published: 2013
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Nonfiction
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Setting: India and Australia, 1985-2012
  • Climax: Saroo reunites with his birth mother, Kamla
  • Antagonist: Poverty, the inconsistencies of memory
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for A Long Way Home

Nicole Kidman. Sue Brierley has said in interviews that when the subject of adapting A Long Way Home for the screen first came up, the family had a number of conversations about which actors they’d like to see portray them. Sue’s wish came true when Nicole Kidman was cast to play her in Lion, and Kidman was even nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.

Doing Good. Mrs. Saroj Sood, as well as several other Indian social workers, hope that the release of both Saroo’s memoir and Lion will push Indian authorities to do better for lost and orphaned children. The children’s home Liluah in particular has come under fire: while individuals involved with the home have been overwhelmingly unwilling to speak about its dark past, social workers who visited around the time Saroo was there insist that Saroo and Lion’s depictions aren’t far off at all.