At the beginning of a year of traveling around the world, and with very little idea of what he was getting into, Conor Grennan worked as a volunteer at the Little Princes Children’s Home in Godawari, Nepal for a few weeks. He hadn’t known what to expect, and he certainly hadn’t expected to be as affected by the experience as he was, but he quickly grew attached to the eighteen orphans who lived there and his fellow caretakers, and promised to come back as soon as he could. That wasn’t till over a year later, and on his return visit, he stayed longer and expanded the scope of his work. He’d discovered that most of the children at Little Princes weren’t truly orphans; they’d been recovered from a child trafficker. Parents in the remote, impoverished northern regions of Nepal would give over their children in the belief that they’d get education and opportunities in Kathmandu, never knowing that they were being sold as laborers in the city or ending up on the streets. The city’s numerous children’s homes couldn’t help enough of them. There was no social-services system to protect them or get them back home, but Conor was determined to do something about that. He could raise money...and he could make the difficult journey, largely on foot, into northern Nepal to track down families, beginning with those of the Little Princes.
Grennan may not be the most eloquent writer, but he’s a fine storyteller with a remarkable story to tell, and he capably engages his reader. It’s not hard to understand his bonding with the Little Princes and how that spurred an impulse to do more, and while it was difficult for me to keep some of the characters straight sometimes, it was easy to see how they affected him. I found him very likable--the nature of memoir sometimes makes it challenging to evaluate the story being told apart from the person telling that story, but having said that, both come off well--and couldn’t help rooting for him. The journey to find the Little Princes’ families held many challenges that made for suspenseful reading--geography, weather, language barriers, and physical injuries among them--and I was completely drawn into it.
Conor Grennan’s work with Next Generation Nepal is ongoing, but Little Princes has a definite narrative arc--and one that would make an excellent film, based on what I was visualizing throughout my reading of the book. A portion of the proceeds of every copy of Little Princes sold goes to support NGN (I feel guilty about getting a review copy!), but the heightened attention and money a movie could generate would certainly help NGN carry out its mission.
Little Princes is the moving, memorable story of an unexpected hero in an unlikely place, and I hope it leads to one happy ending after another.