Saturday, November 7, 2015

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park...

Publish date- September 29th, 2015.
Publisher- Penguin/Fig Tree.
RRP- $32.99 (AUD)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
The fascinating, hardbreaking story of a girl who fled her homeland of North Korea for a better future, only to find herself in perhaps a more awful situation than she could possibly have imagined, and how she kept going.

Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for this review copy!
Image source: Penguin Australia.

What I thought:
In Order to Live was a shocking, gritty, powerful read. Despite the horror of her story, I'm left with the sense that Park is immensely skilled in her telling- she weaves happy childhood anecdotes, the history of her parents and a distinct, warm humor into the text. Comparing these to the painful, detailed factors of rape, human trafficking and starvation that she lived through, it's astonishing and a start comparative.

At times I found Yeonmi's story hard to bear. She is three years older than me and the difference that we experienced with every passing year of our childhood was horrible to take in, the utter reality of the situation- the Chinese Government's move to clear out trafficking with the Olympic Games and media attention in 2008? I remember it well. And at that time Yeonmi was in China, living in wretched fear with one of the traffickers who had some twisted kind of "love" for her.
My life has been so different, so lucky, but I also realised that I couldn't downgrade my own experiences as I read (because I was), since they were entirely different and we had to find our own way out of them.

In Order to Live is told in three parts- North Korea, describing her childhood and the time before she and her mother fled, and what it was that made them make that decision; China, describing the years spent in a place supposedly like a dream but really an apparent nightmare; and South Korea. There is a beautiful way of tellingeach part, an ease and deftness, but I did struggle at points to get through it, both because the voice was difficult to connect with and the tale had so many horiffic elements to it. At times it also felt fragmented, told in a way that might be distracted or back and forth. But overall it was... huge. Important and terrifying and honestly- beautifully- told.

Rating: Ooh, very good.
Autobiographies hold a special place in my heart, and I read In Order to Live at the best possible moment for me. It was difficult because of the topics, mostly, but important. I'm glad to have read it.


  1. I sooo want to read Yeonmi's story, but I know it's going to be so heartbreaking I don't even think I'm ready! How did you even survived reading it? I've only read the summary and my soul is already in pain!

    Great review, by the way.

    ~L. @ Reading Against Time ♥

    1. It's really, really intense and overwhelming, but told... really cleverly, I suppose. She weaves in the heartbreaking things with other elements, not so the truth is sacrificed, but so it's not, maybe, so in your face as it could be.
      I hope you do manage to read it, Lili! As for me, I was definitely emotionally effected, but things in books always seem a little more fictional than real life, even biographies. xx

  2. I have a bit of trouble with biographies and autobiographies, but I think this is the kind of book I would read because I want to understand what she has gone through, and when it comes to difficult situations like this one, it is for us to learn from and share. She has gone through so much, and that shouldn't be ignored, even if it might be hard to bear at times.

    1. Okay. I tend to read few, but love them often more than other books. It's so important to understand what's going on and try to work out how to live with that and work to make it better for everyone. Help the people who've suffered, help make it so future generations don't need to suffer.

  3. Difficult read, indeed. Perhaps, I could enjoy this one, too when I'm in a better state of mind.

    1. I sometimes don't think it's even about enjoying it. It's about what you get out of it, learn and understand, how it makes you think. Hope you'll try it. xx

  4. This sounds like a powerful story! It's not what I would normally read, but I'm glad to read your review at least, because I already admire Park for coming out of such hardships. I'm glad this book was so perfect for you.

    1. Uh-huh. It seems to be out of the sphere of a lot of bloggers, but I suppose that makes it even more interesting. There's actually a talk she did as part of a youth conference, which discusses what she faced on a smaller scale. It was heartbreaking. xx

  5. I always admire anyone who is able to write and share an autobiography. It seems like an intense read but one that I might delve into someday. I've also read Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick which also explores life in North Korea from a journalistic POV. My favourite autobiography/memoir is Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah - one I definitely recommend.

    1. Uh-huh. I really enjoy reading them and getting that true sense of who the person is and was and what they believe, what they've gone through, but... I don't think I'd be able to allow myself to get that raw and exposed.
      Chinese Cinderella is an old favourite of mine, too. I read it about eight years ago, I guess, but recently bought a copy and definitely plan to go back into it again sometime soon. xx


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