When we think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, we normally think of people who have survived war conditions. But as is illustrated in this novel by Australian author John Marsden, PTSD can happen to civilians as well.
The idea for the story came from a famous case in Australia of a young woman, Kay Nesbit, being shot in the face by the irate ex-boyfriend of her roommate. She ended up having 57 surgeries to restore her face to a somewhat normal condition..
Imagine that you are five years old, and your mother is too poor to pay for you and your siblings to go to school. So you spend your days searching for scraps of food to eat, and playing in the streets. One day you beg your oldest brother to let you hop the train with him to another town, where he finds odd jobs. Imagine sitting on a train station bench to wait for him, falling asleep, and then awakening to wonder if you’ve been left behind. You hop on the train that you think is the way home, not realizing that trains have many destinations.
This is how young Saroo comes to be separated from his village and family, and a lost child on the dangerous streets of Calcutta, India (now called Kolkuta). He actually manages to survive on the streets for several weeks before a teenager takes him to the police station as a lost child. Not knowing how to read or write, not knowing his full name or even the correct name of the town he lives in, the authorities cannot find his family. Saroo is sent to an orphanage, and in less than a year is adopted by a couple in Australia. There he is loved and well cared for, and grows to adulthood. But in the background is always his wish that his mother and siblings could know that he is alive and well.
This memoir was fascinating from beginning to end. I listened to it as an audio-book, and the narrator’s Indian accent made it feel totally real. The story was so compelling that I actually managed to let my coffee percolator burn dry on the stove while I listened! Let me tell you, that has never happened to me before, despite years of percolating coffee. I was so impressed by Saroo’s love for his Australian parents and adopted brother, as well as his attempt to let his Indian family know that he was alright. This is truly a book worth picking up at your local library, bookstore, or online.