Book Review: Little Princes

Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

by Conor Grennan, ISBN-10: 0061930059

When a 29-year-old Conor Grennan decides to blow his life savings on a year long trip around the world, his family and friends think he has lost his mind.  In order to placate them, as well as add something to his resume and maybe even pick up a new line to use on the ladies back home, he decides to spend the first three months of his trip volunteering at a Nepalese orphanage.  He’s had virtually no experience working with kids, nor of travelling in war-torn countries (apparently the part in the volunteer travel brochure that said there was a civil war was not in fact an exaggeration).  When he makes it past the heavily armoured guards at the airport and checkpoints, through his initial orientation to life in Nepal, and finally arrives at the orphanage he is charged at by a herd of laughing, jumping, rambunctious kids.  He captures the moment of his arrival with a great line: “As it turns out, wondering what you’re supposed to do in an orphanage is like wondering what you’re supposed to do at the running of the bulls in Spain.”

Soon after arriving Conor finds out that most of the children are not orphans after all – they are victims of a child trafficker.  The children are told that for the safety of their families they should tell people that their parents have died.  The strength and resilience of the children is astounding and Conor soon finds the passion that up to this point had been missing from his life.  He makes it his mission to reunite as many of these children as possible with their parents.  We see him grow from a man who had lived a predominantly self-centered life to someone who was willing to put himself at great risk trekking to Maoist rebel controlled, treacherous mountain terrain in search of the children’s families.

His writing style has the frank and easy-going style that made Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love so beloved, with the inspirational story of a normal guy doing courageous things that made Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea a bestseller.  I love his sense of humour and the way that the love he quickly develops for the kids he meets oozes out of the pages like a parent gushing about their new baby.  The children’s antics had me laughing out loud, and Conor’s honesty and courage are inspiring.  And there is even a little romance that had me flipping to the author description at the back of the book to find out if his lady-friend would turn out to be “the one” (they anticipated this apparently – the author description does not give the name of his wife).

It was only January when I read this book, but I strongly suspect Little Princes will be among my top reads of 2011.  A portion of the proceeds from the book sales go to Next Generation Nepal – the organization Conor founded to keep reuniting families in Nepal.