Monday, January 3, 2011

The Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan — 304 pgs


Book CoverWhen 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.

18 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Oh, Heather, I sobbed through your review and the video, so I can only imagine what this book will do to me. I'm so impressed with the resilience of those beautiful children. I can't wait to read the book.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I got this book but decided I couldn't read it - that trafficking stuff upsets me too much! But your review is wonderful!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Wonderful review - I am so distraught from the troubles that occur with children in the world, and it infuriates me to no end what people will do to take advantage of children. It absolutely, absolutely horrifies me and like bermudaonion, I will cry overwhelmingly when I read these things, but also like rhapsodyinbooks, I don't know if I can read the book. I want to, since I've tried to be incredibly aware of these events and horrors around the world, but I get so mad when I read what is done to children.

I am SO very happy that Conor finds love amidst it all - it does seem to be the case that a person like him is so deserving of love! And it's wonderful to read in your review that who he falls for is a woman who is perfect for him!

Trisha said...

Rough stuff! But sounds like an important read and a good one, so on to the wish list it goes!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Oh, those sweet, sweet little babies. And your review does it so much justice. I applaud Grennan for being honest about his initial motivations. I mean, weren't we all like that at a young age? Looking to impress other people? But the important thing is that he converted the experience to a noble one. What an amazing story. I'm going to have to read this one. Reading things like this renews one's faith in humanity.

Suko said...

Beautiful, inspiring review and video, Zibilee! I'd love to read this book.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I had a feeling that this one would be good. I trust your judgment and hope to read this one soon. Great review.

TheBookGirl said...

This tells such a heartbreaking story, but how wonderful that there are parts that can make the reader smile too. I echo the thoughts of those previous commenters that said it might be too hard a read for them; in my fiction reading I stay away from any sort of child-abduction, murder, abuse, storyline and somehow knowing that this is non-fiction makes it all that much harder.
That said, you have written a wonderful review of a book that covers a topic that should be brought further into the light :)

nomadreader (Carrie) said...

Oh goody! I have a copy of this one and am now looking forward to it even more. I'm excited about the real-life love story aspect too. Great review!

Jenners said...

Sounds like an amazing and heartbreaking story. My brother traveled to Nepal a few years ago and I wonder if this is something he would be interested in reading. I'll have to see. It is so sad to think that children are treated like this though ... it just makes me so sad.

Erin said...

Wow...this book sounds like a lot, and I mean that in a good way. I think it will have to go onto my list. Thanks for your comprehensive review!

Veens said...

Oh my this is so horrible. I did not want to watch the trailer at all. But i do need to read this book and I am going to hunt it down.

Great review, you have put a lot of emotion in to this review and it really is touching.

Amy said...

This sounds like a hard but wonderful book. Thank you for readng and reviewing it.

Melissa M said...

I love these types of memoirs and will definitely be adding this one to my list!

Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

I read this book a few months ago, and it was a heart-wrenching read. Great review!

Darlene said...

I saw another review of this book today and it sounds like such a worthwhile read although the subject matter would probably be hard for me to read. Your review was amazing Heather.

Wendy said...

This one's on my to read list for next month - looks good! Thanks for the great review of it, Heather :)

Literary Feline said...

Thank you for your great review, Heather. My favorite memoirs tend to be human interest stories and this one sounds right up my alley. I'll have to add it to my wish list. Human trafficking is such a horrible problem in our society, even here in the U.S.

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