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: HarperCollins 360

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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