This is a hard one to review. Here we have the story of Shin Dong-hyuk. Born and raised in a North Korea political prison camp Shin eventually escapes...moreThis is a hard one to review. Here we have the story of Shin Dong-hyuk. Born and raised in a North Korea political prison camp Shin eventually escapes. Very few are so fortunate.....I was torn for my feelings for Shin. Even Harden did not seem to like him very much. So many of the things Shin does are hard to accept....However, he was a product of his environment. I can't imagine what myself or any other would do in his situation. It's hard to believe that in this day and age that some people never have an opportunity to know what being treated as a human is like. We can't possibly understand that to turn in someone else, knowing that it will most likely cause their death, means that we get to live another day. Yes, it is easy to *say* that we would rather die then turn in another just so we could continue on for a few more hours, days, or months....however, we have been treated with kindness at some point in time. We have laid down on a blanket of fresh grass and truly tasted freedom. But what if we have only known the inside of a prison camp such as those in North Korea.
It's hard to stop trying to figure out the why and to not pass judgement of Shin. If he were perhaps a better man would it have made any difference in the death of others? Would he be alive today to try to better his life? What lengths would you go to for a grain of rice?
What makes us the person we are today? It's hard to read this book and flat out deny that environment does not play a major roll in that. However, not everyone in the camps do what Shin did to survive. So where does that come from?
What strikes me most is that it's only when Shin decides to change how he deals with another human that he finally finds his freedom. I just wonder if Shin would change anything if he could go back in time....
This is a depressing eye-opening read if you really want to know what goes on outside of your borders....Perhaps one that Rodman should read....(less)
This was sorta a tough book for me to finish. It took me close to a month to finish it. It started out strong. But at about 20% I felt it got bogged d...moreThis was sorta a tough book for me to finish. It took me close to a month to finish it. It started out strong. But at about 20% I felt it got bogged down in a repeating slump. We were covering the same material page after page. I felt this way though I would say a good 40% of the book. We just didn't seem to move beyond a certain point in the main character's life. When the book finally did move on to the next phase, it seemed to be in fast forward trying to make up the lost time it spent in the repeating slump. It flew past the last part of the book and I felt we missed out on some of the story. It felt very lopsided to me. Then we were provided with a hollywood HEA ending for one part of the story.
I won't lie. At this point, I was going to generously give the book 3 stars. That's right....3 stars. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. Everyone else absolutely loved this book. Not me. Yes, I enjoyed it. Yes, I thought it was a great story. But I still felt it was bogged down in so many ways. I felt that it needed to either be 300 pages shorter, or 300 pages longer. Again, it was so lopsided to me....
However, having said all of that, the last 10% of the book was amazing to me. I mean, the type of book to keep you up at night thinking about. The type of book you has you sighing out loud with pure satisfaction. It made up for every other annoyance I had over the book. There was no way I could give it less than 5 stars with the ending. No, I am not talking about the neat hollywood HEA ending. I am talking about the real ending. The one that true to life. The one that lets us all know that life isn't perfect. Hell, sometimes it isn't even nice. It isn't fair. It simply is what it is. I seriously loved what the main character has realised in life. I love the way he voices what he is feeling. I love that it was not perfect. I want to go though the whole irritation felt at the middle part of the book again, just so I can read the words at the end...This is a book I won't soon forget. I know this might not be the most gushing review you'll find. I realise that at times it won't even seem like an endorsement of the book. But you're wrong. I'm just being honest with how I felt...and bottom line...I really liked the first part of the book...the middle part was starting to bore me....but the ending.....Holy Hell, it rocked my world....I simply loved it....Here are just a few quotes that moved me....
“Well—I have to say I personally have never drawn such a sharp line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as you. For me: that line is often false. The two are never disconnected. One can’t exist without the other. As long as I am acting out of love, I feel I am doing best I know how. But you—wrapped up in judgment, always regretting the past, cursing yourself, blaming yourself, asking ‘what if,’ ‘what if.’ ‘Life is cruel.’ ‘I wish I had died instead of.’ Well—think about this. What if all your actions and choices, good or bad, make no difference to God? What if the pattern is pre-set? No no—hang on—this is a question worth struggling with. What if our badness and mistakes are the very thing that set our fate and bring us round to good? What if, for some of us, we can’t get there any other way?”
"I'd felt drowned and extinguished by vastness - not just the predictable vastness of time, and space, but the impassable distances between people even when they were within arm's reach of each other, and with a swell of vertigo I thought of all the places I'd been and all the places I hadn't, a world lost and vast and unknowable, dingy maze of cities and alleyways, far-drifting ash and hostile immensities, connections missed, things lost and never found..."
"...when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what's right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: "Be yourself." "Follow your heart." Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted--? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?...If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or...is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?”
“But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.”
“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”
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