Remarkable bravery fluently recounted.



The ably reconstructed story of the author’s convoluted escape from North Korea, detailing the hardships of life there and the serendipity of flight.

A supremely determined young woman, Lee chronicles her life in North Korea and her defection in her late teens in 1998. With the assistance of co-author John, she re-creates a picaresque tale of incredible, suspenseful, and truly death-defying adventures, which eventually led her to asylum in South Korea and then America. The author grew up largely in the northeast province of Ryanggang, bordering the Yalu River with China, and her family home was in Hyesan. Her father was a privileged member of the military, and her enterprising mother was a successful trader on the black market. The family, including younger brother Min-ho, did not endure the hardships of famine like people of low songbun, or caste, but the author learned that her father was not her biological father only shortly before he died by suicide after being trailed by security, beaten, and imprisoned in her mid-teens. Her mother had previously married and divorced another man. At age 17, the lights of China, directly across the river, beckoned, and the author managed to cross and establish contact first with a trading partner of her mother’s, then dissident relatives of her father’s in Shenyang. While the author had no intention of leaving her mother, it was apparent that it was too dangerous for her to return. Her relatives shielded her for a few years, trying to arrange a marriage with a wealthy Korean-Chinese man, from whom the author fled at the eleventh hour. Working as a waitress in Shanghai afforded some invisibility, though she was always susceptible to con men and security police. As the narrative progresses, the author’s trials grow ever more astounding, especially as she eventually tried to get her mother and brother out of North Korea.

Remarkable bravery fluently recounted.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-00-755483-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper360

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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