In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, is an account of one girl’s beginnings in North Korea and how she found her way to freedom. Today she is a human rights activist and the voice for North Korea.
Well what can I say apart from the fact that the book is such a good read! I don’t usually opt to read authors autobiographies/biographies, usually preferring to read a good fiction book. However, as this was the next book we had decided on I definitely had to give it a shot. As usual I download the book onto my Kindle as I just love being able to read anywhere and everywhere.
The book is structured well because it begins by illustrating Yeonmi’s life in North Korea showing the struggles she endures in early life but viewed as perfectly normal, things that we as Westerner’s reading the book are completely astounded by. I’m not one that has a huge knowledge on North Korea, but the beginning of the book really feeds the need to understand a country that is so different, yet we know so little about.
The second part of the book talks about her escape from North Korea, even the journey from North Korea to China sounds traumatic for both her and her mother, her sister left just before and at the time they were unable to track her down. They spend some time in China and you forget just how young Yeonmi is at this stage in the book. At 13 she had to do things that no-one should have to do, let alone someone who is still so young. It was scary to make the comparison to my innocent life at 13 attending school without many cares in the world. She is separated from her family at one point, and thankfully works with someone who supports her in finding her mother and father, sadly supporting her father until he dies in China, never quite making it to a better life. During this time period she still has no idea whether her sister made it to China and whether she is even alive.
‘The book goes through all sorts of emotions from happiness to sadness from life to death.’
The final part of the book talks about her and her mother taking the plunge and trying to travel to South Korea to start a new life. There was what I understood as something similar to Christian Aid that aided them on the start of this journey, but do not actually make the trip with them into the unknown. Thankfully they both make it to South Korea, where they have a rehabilitation programme, which tries to introduce them and almost resocialise them to a life outside of North Korea. You can feel the struggles from Yeonmi to have to turn against what she has known all of her life, trying to understand the way they lived in North Korea was not right. Yeonmi still doesn’t know where her sister is and you can feel her determination to find out whether she is alive by putting herself out of her comfort zone to simply try to find her; whether a family will be reunited with a better life ahead.
This book is a real page turner, wanting to know how Yeonmi got through each stage of her still very young life, whether she made it to South Korea and whether she was able to make a better life for herself. The book goes through all sorts of emotions from happiness to sadness from life to death. It is also an eye opener to gain a view first hand of what North Korea is like as a country and how different it is to large parts of the world.
I would definitely recommend reading this book, and she is quite an incredible person.
Buy ‘In Order To Live’ via Amazon.
This review was originally written by Genevieve of The Bean In The Travelling Pants.