Definitely a must read for people interested in personal stories from North Korea. I personally enjoyed Nothing To Envy; Ordianry Lives in North KoreaDefinitely a must read for people interested in personal stories from North Korea. I personally enjoyed Nothing To Envy; Ordianry Lives in North Korea quite a bit more, but that was written by a WRITER, retelling the stories she extracted verbally from refugees, and not written as a firsthand account by a refugee in their own words. It's a different experience- a good one though.
The book is written fairly well. It's not a literary masterpiece, but it's not simple or clunky. The story is, of course- I don't think I even need to say really, exceptional. What kept this book from being more highly rated was a pretty basic error is story construction. Setting aside all the miseries and shock- the story jumped around a little bit. There's a great deal of description about generalities, and not as much personal story. Huge swaths of this book are devoted to describing, in general, the social structues, expectations, propaganda devices, scrict heirarchy, work schedules, depravations, etc. While all of this was very interesting in it's own right, much of it was not nearly as autobiographical as I had hoped. There were personal experiences, but they were almost like bookends to the generalities, rather than the other way around. This book definitely should have been longer, as others have staed before me in reviews, but for me it was the social-studies type descriptions that filled large percentages of the chapters that I was a little bummed out by. What really turned this book into a 4 star for me was, surprisingly, the part I was least interested in- that is, the end, after his escape and flight from North Korea. Really the very last chapter or two- his description and reflection on adjustment to life in China, but more especially, to life in South Korea, was extraordinarally good. The authors ability to examine his own acting out and misbehaviors, as well as analyzing the jibes and cruelties of South Koreans towards their Northern bretheren was really very acute.
I think the moment this book really went from 3.5 to 4 was after he had been taken in by a religious group who would help smuggle him into S. Korea. He is enormously grateful to the kind and generous people who assist him, but he is still put off by their religious fervor, and gently, kindly, compares it to the personality cults he had just fled from. For me, to read about someone who has just come from such a harrowing existence into an entirely different world- but who still maintained his sharp eye and intelligent observation- was pretty cool.
Within the first chapter, I hated almost the whole cast of characters. I hated the main character, her mother, her father, her best freind, but I neveWithin the first chapter, I hated almost the whole cast of characters. I hated the main character, her mother, her father, her best freind, but I never hated her sister- she just seemed crushed under the weight of a dysfunctional family from hell.
Anyway, I don't know why I felt compelled to, but I read it like there was no tomorrow. Even though it made me irritable, angry, and unhappy, I kept right on going. I discovered that the author has a knack for making you dislike all of them, and then she pulls everything together in this slow repairing weave that's both sort of careless but elegant.
I continued to dislike the protagonist almost all the way to the end, and though by the finale I was kind of rooting for her, I also wanted to smack her and tell her she was being foolish every three seconds. She is remarkably selfish, self-centered, slutty (in a New York trash sort of way) possibly alcoholic, incredibly materialistic, petty, vain, not really interested in anything worthwhile, shallow, bitter, self-pitying on a massive scale, self indulgant, and judgemental. Her whole family is a terrible mess. They are horrible to one another, and it's only marginally less bad by the end, even though they have confronted terrible tradgedy. They learn a little, but not much it seems, from the experience. They may tell one another that they love eachother a bit more, they're just as screwed up as in the beginning. They're not screwed up in an endearing "aww, what a cute mess" sort of way, and not in a "oh, the shock and horror" sort of way- they're just really really awful to one another and seem to have no idea how to cope with real emotions or serious situations. BUT For some strange reason I found myself hating them a great deal less by the end. Not out of pity, no, it's more like they just sort of grow on you- and though you quietly despise them, you still don't want to see them hurt. It was also totally and completely honest. I realized I didn't like these people because none of their flaws were whitewashed. Every dirty little nook and cranny, every line or pimple or character flaw was made plain and distinct and clear- and it made me respect all of them a great deal more.
I can't really say if I *liked* the book. It's hard to say you like a book whose characters you want to to pummel. I READ the book. I felt as much of their pain as the author could convey, and watched them bumble around hopelessly trying to cope with it. Would I reccomend it? Urk. It's well written, engaging, smart, I lol'd a few times, I got choked up at least once.... but it will make you mad, irritable, possibly give you a headache, and make you wish you could kick at least one of them in the shin on multiple occasions.
If you're up for a read that's that draining emotionally, I absolutely reccomend it. It was a book I will certainly never forget. ...more
Possibly the finest auto-biography I have ever read. People who have suffered from EDs will complain that this book is packed full of triggers, but soPossibly the finest auto-biography I have ever read. People who have suffered from EDs will complain that this book is packed full of triggers, but so is America's Next Top Model, and I can't say anything about the quality of THAT writing.
This book is a genuine, gripping story of a youth literally thrown away in favor of madness.
For anyone who has not suffered from some incarnation of disordered eating, it will seem surreal, and at times, utterly unbelievable. The book is effortlessly fluid. The story moves along at a perfect pace, with enough detail to give a horrifying sense of understanding, but not so much as to become preachy or dull. Most of the other characters seem two dimensional, but you get the impression that they seemed that way to her at the time- as though they were experienced in a dream.
"Wasted" follows the life of the author from her strange and sudden plunge into anorexia and bulimia as a child, all the way to her current state of semi-recovery. She goes from moderately neurotic, to waiting patiently at death's doorstop, to being almost normal, recounting for us, her audience, all the stops along the way. She goes through an utterly excruciating journey, and finally comes out the other end- not intact, and not happily ever after, but alive. It is both victorious and tragic, disturbing and moving, and I cannot recommend it highly enough....more