This was a book club selection I never would have picked up on my own but am so glad I read it. What a horrifying account of atrocities that are happening in MY lifetime and continue to happen today. A glimpse into the life behind the curtain of North Korea that left me disturbed and morally outraged. This fascinating memoir by Kang Chol-Hwan tells the story of a nine year old boy who is sent to a labor camp for ten years with his family for political crimes against the state committed by his grandfather. In the telling of his personal story – which rivals on many levels the picture we have as Westerner’s of the concentration camps of WWII Germany – he also shows the true life struggle of the everyday world under the dictatorship of North Koreans and the propaganda of their form of Communism. I was appalled that I was not aware of the real story of North Korea and urge everyone and anyone to read this book. Because the details of the camp are stark and horrific, it isn’t a book for young children but it is not graphic in the telling; merely sad and compelling. I love history lessons in the form of a story I can sink into like a good novel and this is one of those rare kind of gems.
The book club discussion last night was heated with politics that most of the time had not much to do with what was actually in the book. Thanks to one of the outspoken ones among us, we were steered back about mid-way through the evening to the real person we had read about who had gone through these horrid things and risked much to tell the world about his ordeal. Surprisingly, no one went away angry after the, at times, very heated discussion which is a testament of just what a great book club I have!