Monday, January 3, 2011
The Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan — 304 pgs
When Conor Grennan graduates from college, he decides he's going to use his life savings to travel around the world for a year before getting down to business and finding a job. Though he's mostly a free spirit and just wants to see the sights, he'll spend the first three months volunteering at a children's home in Nepal. Grennan doesn't sugarcoat things when he admits that this plan took shape because he wanted to impress his friends, family and colleagues. But when Conor arrives at The Little Princes Children's Home in Nepal, his world begins to change. At first scared of the lovable mob of children that tackle him to the ground, Conor begins to interact with them on a deep and paternal level that leaves his heart wide open.
All these children are the victims of child trafficking. Their parents, living in some of the most remote and poor villages in the world, were tricked into paying a benefactor to house, feed and educate them, hoping that their children will have a better fate than they would have had they stayed in the village. After collecting the children and the money, this malevolent benefactor uses the children as bait to attract foreign donations, ostensibly for the children's care. These children are then abandoned at random villages where they often become malnourished and ill. When the directors of The Little Princes Children's Home eventually come into possession of them, they are finally safe and able to begin a new life. But it's not always that easy, as more and more parents are being lured into giving their children away to the evil man known as Golkka. Although Conor and his colleagues wish to reunite these children with their families, scores of children show up at the doors of the children's home and others like it. When Conor takes on a double mission to find seven stolen children and to reunite several others with their family and village, he steps into a world of danger and corruption. Will he be able to find those unlucky seven and reunite the others with their families before time runs out? As Conor gets increasingly invested in the children and their fates, his life begins to change and he comes to realize that his home is there, in the children's home, with the kids he has come to love and cherish. Though at times heartbreaking, this tale is an ultimately uplifting story about a group of children that were once lost but now have been miraculously found.
I haven't read a lot of human interest memoirs over the past year, but I was really excited about this one. First off because Grennan seemed to be such a regular person, such an everyman, if you will. It was refreshing to see that his reasons for the trip to Nepal were essentially selfish but ended up having such positive and far-reaching effects. Conor also has the distinct ability to be genuinely funny writing about the children he comes in contact with and a good portion of this book made me smile. Whenever there was a scene of Conor interacting with the children, there was bound to be a flash of revelation from him, and as he grew to know them all, they came to love and respect him as a sort of surrogate parent. Conor also works with a few other volunteers from other parts of the world and this small handful of people become the children's be all and end all.
It was sad to see how the parents were tricked into believing that by paying Golkka to take away their children, they would have a better life. Most of the children that were trafficked were simply meal tickets for the dangerous man, and after they had outlived their usefulness, they were relegated to a shack on the back edge of someone's property along with dozen of others to starve and become seriously ill. At times they were sold into child slavery, and finding these children became the toughest obstacle that Conor could ever face. The sad part was that even though Conor recovered a few dozen, there were countless others that he couldn't save. It was a sad testament that so many of these cases could have been avoided had the parents only been aware of what Golkka was really all about, and even sadder that it continued to happen, even after the story had ended.
One of the hardest things to digest was the fact that the parents of the trafficked children could not take them back into their homes, even after they had been found and rehabilitated. Most of the time, they lived such hardscrabble existences that it was impossible for them to take these children home again. Often they were content to leave the children in Conor and the other volunteers' hands, confident that they would have better lives then they themselves could have given to their own offspring. Though there were many reconciliations, most of the children ended up staying in the children's home because the community could not feasibly absorb them back into the fold. The children didn't seem scarred by this though, and most of them were just happy to know that their parents were still alive, as many of them had been told that all of their family had died.
I thought this story would be mainly given over to the trafficked children of Nepal, but to my surprise and delight, Conor finds a person to love throughout his mission to save the children. I really relished this aspect of the story because I believed that Conor was a really good guy and deserving of the love that he so obviously needed. The woman in question was a pretty rare specimen as well, and I believe there was something more than chance that brought them together. The children also found it gratifying that Conor had fallen in love, and grew to love his intended just as much as they loved him, which warmed my heart as well.
This was a very interesting book not only in the story it told, but in the way it was presented and the feelings that it evoked in me. It was funny, sad and timely, and had the added benefit of starring the enigma that is Conor Grennan. I would urge anyone who is curious about the plight of child trafficking in Nepal to read this book, and as an added incentive, a portion of the proceeds from this book go directly to the Little Princes Children's Home. This book would also make a great choice for book clubs. A very touching read, filled with altruism. Recommended!
Watch the trailer.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.
Posted by Zibilee at 8:00 AM