Title: Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
Author: Conor Grennan
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: William Morrow (Print) / Harper Audio (Audio)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 5 out of 5
When he was 29, Conor Grennan decided that he wanted to take a trip around the world for one year. But when he realized that sounded incredibly self-indulgent, he amended his plan: he would start off the trip in Nepal, helping orphan children for three months. After all, what sounds more selfless than working at orphanage? But when Grennan arrives in Nepal, he immediately realizes he is in over his head. What he is unaware of, though, is how much those three months and the twenty boys at Little Princes orphanage will change him.
I know a decent amount about South Asia. I’ve read a lot of books about the region, and have been lucky enough to visit there. One country in the area I don’t know a lot about, though, is Nepal. While I knew there had been a civil war in the country, I didn’t know who was fighting, nor was I aware of what they were fighting for. Therefore, I was very curious about Little Princes when I first heard about it. A moving story set against the backdrop of a war-torn country sounded like a valuable learning experience.
What I wasn’t prepared for, though, is how incredibly funny Little Princes was. Conor Grennan has an incredibly self-deprecating and warm sense of humor. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself, his ignorance, and his utter stupidity in thinking that a good reason for volunteering at an orphanage was to impress people. I absolutely loved his observations about Nepal. He manages to inject a sense of humor into even the hardest facets of life, yet he never makes fun of anyone but himself. It is clear he is incredibly respectful of Nepalis, their culture, and the Little Princes orphanage. While he might find humor in what is occurring around him, his laughter is never mean spirited.
Conor Grennan is also incredibly honest in this book. He does this monumental thing, giving so much of himself to those who have so little, yet he isn’t some otherworldly person of goodness. He has doubts and fears, frustrations that the people of Nepal leave it to foreigners to care for their children (because they have so little to give, but still a legitimate concern), a desire to return home to the conveniences of the United States. I loved how much of himself he shared with the reader, as I felt like I really understood his feelings and motivations.
Grennan also is prepared for the fact that readers will likely know next-to-nothing about Nepal, and includes the relevant history in order to educate them. I’ll admit, I was shocked to discover that many Americans get Nepal and Tibet confused – it just shows how little a small country like Nepal might make the news in the US, even if they had a decade-long civil war. It was incredible to learn about the rich history of Nepal, as well as the heartbreaking results of the civil war. The war was still going on when Grennan traveled there, so the reader is really able to get a feel for the claustrophobic and paranoid nature of living in a war zone.
As much as I loved the history, culture, and the humor of Little Princes, it was the children that captured my heart. Grennan’s love for these kids knows no bounds; they climb all over him, beat him at games, and steal his laptop to watch bootleg Hindi movies. He remarks often on how resilient they are; though they have been taken from their parents, they are always smiling and laughing, eager for a joke or to play a game. They have experienced horrors no one should have to, yet they are still happy children. I absolutely loved learning about each one of them; Conor’s sincere brotherly love for them shines through every page of the book.
It’s what happens after Conor’s three month stint in Nepal that is remarkable, though. In the end, he feels a personal responsibility for the children. He easily could have left for a comfortable life in the US, but he couldn’t abandon Nepal. Not only does he return to the Little Princes orphanage, he begins his own project to travel into the most war-torn regions of Nepal and find the families of all the children, to reunite mothers and sons. I can’t describe how moving Conor’s journey is, how many times I teared up. Conor’s generosity moved me incredibly, and also shamed me. It was an incredible thing he did, and continues to do with his organization, Next Generation Nepal.
I listened to Little Princes on audio, which was an excellent choice. The narrator is actually the author, Conor Grennan, which can often be a red flag with audios. Some authors just aren’t the best choice to narrate their work, but Grennan was incredible. His inflections delivered the humor of the book perfectly and his voice was warm and welcoming. The audio version is unabridged and runs almost 10 hours.
I cannot put into words how much I absolutely loved Little Princes; I feel like this review doesn’t even come close to doing justice to this book. It made me laugh out loud and moved me to tears. It made me want to help, at the same time I really felt like I was learning a lot about a country I don’t know much about. This is one of those books that you absolutely have to pick up and try, even if you’re not the biggest fan of non-fiction. It is an amazing journey, and I am so glad to have been along for the ride.