If you haven’t seen the 2016 Oscar-nominated film LION, please watch it before you listen to this episode.
Based on the 2013 non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, it’s one of the most powerful biographical drama films I’ve ever seen. It retells the story of Saroo, who was lost to his family in India at age 5 after ending up on a train bound more than 1,000 kilometers away from his hometown. After living on the street and then an orphanage, he is adopted by Tasmanian couple Sue and John Brierley.
A year into his life with them, the couple adopt another boy, Mantosh, who due to the trauma he experienced in the Indian orphanages he was in, has a lot of trouble adjusting to his new home and this is one of the many heartbreaking parts of the film. 20 years later, using Google Earth Saroo remarkably finds his hometown. The film ends with Saroo’s return to India in February 2012 and being reunited with his biological mother, and we learn that his brother Guddu was killed by a train the same night that they were separated as children.
While we learnt a lot about Sue in the movie, who is played by Nicole Kidman, I was left wanting to know more about this extraordinary woman who knew from a young age that adoption would always be her path. There’s a moment in the film where Saroo learns that sue is not infertile, and that she chose adoption because it was what she wanted. It was her path. And Sue is our guest on the podcast today.
She has just written the most powerful memoir Lioness, which is out now, and I hope you will all read. This is a beautiful story of family in all its forms, and the quest of one woman to better the lives of children in need.
In today’s conversation, we talk about:
- Sue’s early life as the child of refugees from Hungary and Poland, living in an isolated environment and with poor language skills in Tasmania.
- Her violent father and traumatic childhood and how this trauma has played out in her life.
- Her journey to motherhood and her desire to help vulnerable children.
- The arrival of her first son Saroo and what it was like being a mother for the first time.
- Adopting another son from India, Mantosh, who had experienced significant trauma in India and how the challenges she faced sent her into a deep depression.
- What it was like when she travelled to India to meet Saroo’s birth mother.
- The film LION and how the experience was incredibly emotional for her family.
- The process of writing her memoir Lioness.