Published Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Non-Fiction; Memoir
Rating: 5 out of 5
Book Summary: An astonishing testament to true courage, the transformative power of love, and the ability of one man to make a real difference.
In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan embarked on a yearlong journey around the globe, beginning with a three-month stint volunteering at an orphanage in civil war–torn Nepal. But a shocking truth would forever change his life: these rambunctious, resilient children were not orphans at all but had been taken from their families by child traffickers who falsely promised to keep them safe from war before abandoning them in the teeming chaos of Kathmandu. For Conor, what started as a footloose ramble became a dangerous, dedicated mission to unite youngsters he had grown to love with the parents they had been stolen from—a breathtaking adventure, as Conor risked everything in the treacherous Nepalese mountains to bring the children home.
Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations.
My Thoughts: Conor Grennan didn't count on the powerful impact the children at Little Princes Children's Home in Godawari, Nepal would have on him when he initially committed to volunteer there for three months in 2004. His motivation for volunteering with the orphans of Nepal. Grennan also figured it was a good excuse for his year long trip around the world following his stint at the orphanage. The first few pages of Little Princes was difficult to get through because Grennan, although candid, is so obnoxious, arrogant and immature I wanted to throw the book across the room! In fact, when Grennan is dropped off outside the orphanage on the day he's supposed to start his volunteer work, he makes his reluctance to be with the children so clear, I wondered if he was going to bail on his promise. When he drags himself through the gate into Little Prince's property, it's the first inkling that there might be a decent guy at Grennan’s core.
Grennan becomes so fond of and connected to the children during his first three months at Little Princes he's reluctant to leave the night before he’s to depart for his trip around the world . One of the boys, Anish, asks Grennan when he will return to the orphanage. He initially tells them he doesn't know, maybe in a year. Grennan then realizes how sad he is to be leaving the children and how truly happy he's been in Godawari with them. He also feels as responsible to and for the eighteen children living in the orphanage as if he was their parents. Grennan tells Anish and the other children that he will return after a year. A promise he gladly keeps.
Grennan still believes that the children living at Little Princes Children's Home are orphans when he returns to volunteer for another 3 months in January 2006. Shortly after returning to Godawari, Grennan and his fellow volunteer and good friend, Farid, learn the children at Little Princes are not orphans when the mother of two of the children shows up at the orphanage looking for her boys, Nuraj and Krish. These boys and the other children believed their parents were dead. To Grennan and the other's total surprise, the parents of most of the children are actually living in their respective villages around Nepal. Their children were taken by a child trafficker who promised parents he would keep their children safe from Maoist rebels, who abducted children and forced them to fight against the government, in return for a large sum of money. The trafficker then pocketed the money, mistreated the children and abandoned them or sold them into domestic slavery. Grennan's dismay upon hearing the truth is evident as he relays the events of the day he learns the truth about the children. He also feels even more responsibile for the children after hearing how they were treated and deceived.
Grennan writes with a refreshing honesty and humility about his decision to try to find the families of the children living at Little Princes Children's Home. He is also concerned about seven children abandoned by the child trafficker with the mother of Nuraj and Krish, despite the fact that she has no means for feeding or clothing them. When he returns to Jersey City, NJ to get a job and make a life for himself, Grennan shares how difficult it was to move on with his life. He listened to news about the situation in Nepal constantly and emailed with several people he's come to know while in Nepal. While he's perfecting his resume and researching companies and organizations to interview with, Grennan receives disturbing news about some of the children in Nepal. He's forthright in relaying how clearly dismayed he is by the news as well as how strong a sense of responsibility he feels for these children. Grennan decides to return to Nepal. But unlike his often rash, impulsive self, Grennan realizes with the help of Farid, he'd be foolish to return without a solid, good plan of action on behalf of the children in Nepal. This leads to Grennan's idea to form a nonprofit organization, Next Generation Nepal (NGN) and to search for the families of the children at Little Princes and more.
Little Princes is a remarkable, heart-breaking and heart-warming book. Grennan tells the story of the children and NGN with honesty, humor and integrity that made me cry, laugh, feel intense anger and much sadness. It's also an inspiring story full of hope and promise, great kindness, selflessness and love. The children about whom Grennan writes with respect, admiration and love are simply amazing. They are unbelievably resilient and survivors of terrible loss and pain. They are heroes. The other star of this book is Conor Grennan. He is still slightly rash and impulsive by the end of Little Princes but he's a very different man than the one who initially volunteered with orphans in Nepal only in order to impress the ladies. Over the course of this story, Grennan grows into a mature, responsible, caring and selfless person who willingly risks his life to reunite the children of Little Princes Children's Home with the parents and families they never expected to see again. This well-written, emotional and candid book is one I recommend to everybody.
About the Author:
Conor Grennan, author of the memoir Little Princes, spent eight years at the EastWest Institute (EWI), both in Prague and the EU Office in Brussels, where he served as Deputy Director for the Security and Governance Program.
At the East/West Institute, Conor developed and managed a wide variety of projects focusing on issues such as peace and reconciliation in the Balkans, community development in Central Eastern Europe, and harmonizing anti-trafficking policy at the highest levels government in the European Union and the former Yugoslavia.
Conor left EWI in 2004 to travel the world and volunteer in Nepal. He would eventually return to Nepal and found Next Generation Nepal, an organization dedicated to reconnecting trafficked children with their families and combating the root causes of child trafficking in rural villages in Nepal. He was based in the capital of Kathmandu until September 2007 where he was the Executive Director of Next Generation Nepal.
Conor now serves on the Board of Next Generation Nepal, together with his wife, Liz. He is a 2010 graduate of the NYU Stern School of Business, where he was the President of the Student Body. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son, Finn, and a soon-to-be baby girl.
See Conor's Website and his organization, Next Generation Nepal. Conor is also available on Twitter and Facebook.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review Little Princes and to William Morrow for a copy of this book.