Author: Hyeonseo Lee
Book Takes Place in the Country: YES
Auhtor is from the country: YES
I have visited: no
I read this book near the end of last year. It was recommended to me by several people in the reading groups I follow. And then when this year's list came up - it was recommended as the book I put in my North Korea spot. After I read it, I whole heartedly agreed.
This is the true story of the author's life in North Korea and how she defected from a country that is trapped with a brutal communist leader. She lives near the border of China and dreams of crossing to a better life.
One night, when things have gotten so bad for her family, she makes the escape to China. The family has friends right across the border (smuggling trade was big where she lived in North Korea) and they agree to help her make safe passage. She has relatives in China, and she convinces her friends across the border to take her to them. The relatives had no idea she was coming, but welcomed the 17 year old and agree to hide her. She spends her days, weeks, months with her relatives learning Mandarin and hiding the fact that she escaped from North Korea.
Before she knows it, 2 years have passed and she feels that she has overstayed her welcome. She makes plans to get a job, and get her own place in China and leaves her relatives safety. She spends a decade in China hiding in plain site.
Homesickness, and worry about her mother and her younger brother make her realize that somehow she must return home. She meets a man that is from South Korea and he agrees to help her get her family to safety. With skill and perserverance she makes her way and starts the plan to move her mother and brother to the south. It takes many months to get her mother and brother to safety after convincing her mother she had to leave.
This was a great book. It gives you a good insight to what it is like for those living in North Korea. This book covers the 1990's and early 2000's - not that far in the past to imagine that this is going on now in this country. The citizens are trapped in a dictatorship and fear for their lives on a daily basis. One mis step could mean execution without a trial.
What she went through to escape, and then try and get her family to do the same is harrowing. She is imprisoned and interrogated and her family goes through the same just to leave North Korea for a better, freer life. They had been brainwashed their whole lives about what the world around them was like, and were shocked to find what it really was. I commend her for leaving, especially at a young age with no money and hardly any contacts to save herself and those she loves.
I recommend you reading this book. I think it gives us an eye opening experience of what it is like for the the citizens of North Korea.
Stars: 4 1/2
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