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