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In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
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April 2018: Strong Women > In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park -- 3 stars

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message 1: by Nicole R (last edited Apr 28, 2018 10:56AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park
3 stars

Okay, taking a deep breath and going to just say it. This was an unbelievable story. Not like unbelievable like Unbroken or The Glass Castle. Like, I literally did not believe her story.

I may be swayed a bit because about halfway through this truly harrowing tale of escape from North Korea, I looked Park up and was shocked by the articles questioning how much of this story was true and it picked up on many things that I had.

I do not doubt that Park's life in North Korea was horrible, or that her escape was treacherous, or that she faced numerous atrocities before finally finding freedom in South Korea. What I doubt is that every single event happened in this book as she has recounted.

And it is not even that it was too horrible to believe. That is the truly heartbreaking part, that things that Park experienced happen on a daily basis. But, what was unbelievable was that every time something even worse happened to her, it happened in an unbelievable way that actually gave Park more options.

Some of the specific examples include things like (view spoiler) It was things like that which I found truly unbelievable.

But, ultimately does it matter? I think Park survived something horrendous, and her story recounts things that happen to North Korean women as they attempt to escape to freedom. Does it really matter if she embellished her personal story in order to bring attention and help to her people's dire situation?

She has also heard of people calling out her inconsistencies within her story and between tellings, and she has attempted to sweep it under the rug with a statement that the translations were not always accurate and she is remembering new details as her and her mother heal. Is this true? I am sure that it has a role to play in some of the small inconsistencies. But, the big ones? I am not sure.

So, I thought the book was eye opening regarding the plight of North Korean women, but I was too distracted by the mystery of the truthfulness to give it more than three stars.

message 2: by Joi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3834 comments Sorry you didn't like this more! I hope I didn't steer you in the wrong direction.

I didn't look her up until after I finished and reviewed the book, and later discovered the questions of accuracy for her story. I think had I looked her up earlier, that definitely would have made me read with more skepticism also.

Maybe it's the naive person in me, but I'd really like to believe that many details/inconsistency are due to either translations, misinterpretations, or media changes. I do agree- some of the spoilers you mentioned seem unbelievable, but I'm under the impressions that if that is what she believes to make herself feel better-than by all means let her, lol.

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I definitely think there are many personal issues that come into play as well. I mean, how much do you have to shut down part of yourself to survive that?! How much do you deny at first to avoid pain and embarrassment and shame? How much do you actually believe it happened differently in order to cope and have some semblance of a life?

I certainly do not fault her for surviving and coping in whatever way she needs to. I applaud her courage for escaping, surviving, and speaking out.

However, she has put herself out there as a humanitarian working on behalf of North Koreans, particularly women. In that case, I personally hold authors and public figures to a high standard.

And you certainly did not steer me wrong! Whether it happened exactly as described to Park, she certainly experienced a large portion of it and there are people experiencing those atrocities on a daily basis. That was eye opening.

And, particularly striking was when she was talking about her living as, basically, a sex slave in northern China and describing that the Olympics were coming to Beijing! That really hit home for me. I remember watching the Beijing Olympics. I watched Michael Phelps make history while she was being held captive.

message 4: by Joi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3834 comments Yes! 100% Yes for the personal issues. I really think that she may have skewed some details- but more because of the coping and how she had to deal with the things that happened- rather than her trying to gain sympathy or changing things on purpose. I mean it's hard enough to go through all this in the first place, but to go over and over it again for the 2nd time, 3rd time, whatnot to write a book and be a humanitarian must be hard. There has to be some unraveling and realizations over time that she went through on a personal level- as well as perhaps an admittion of facts (shame, embarrassment, denial, whatnot) to herself, and this could effect how she remembers certain events. This is where I think a large part of the controversy in her came.

I completely agree though she should be held to a high standard. It seems these are all things that could have been addressed BEFORE writing a book and committing her words to fact.

I picked up A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea during the Amazon World Reads free reads. Looks like it will be combining themes of this with themes of Pachinko- with the Japanese relationships also. Looking forward to that one as well.

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I will look for your review of that one as well! I saw that several people had picked it up. It was not one I downloaded just because I was in the midst of this book and I thought two North Korea books back to back may be too much for me!

I would like to get to Panchinco too...

message 6: by Joi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3834 comments I will forever suggest Pachinko, even if it wasn't the BEST book. It's one I think people should read, and learn from.

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