I haven't read nonfiction for fun in a long time. (Even then, I didn't read much nonfiction.) I decided to give this one a try after seeing an interview with the author on a morning news show. It sounded like an incredible story, and it is.
The author interwove Shin's story of life in the camp and escape with facts and comparisons for context. This created patches that read almost like textbook excerpts, which I might have minded had I not known so little about North Korea. That part got me. There's a portion of Shin's story where he discusses how disinterested people in South Korea, America and around the world seem to be in the horrors of North Korean life for prisoners and citizens. Most of the information in the book was brand new to me. I had to admit to being one of those people not paying attention.
This is not a book to read if you want to walk away feeling warm and fuzzy. The life Shin lived in Camp 14 is gruesome and abhorrent and the end, where you hope to see him risen above the odds and doing wonderfully, does not deny the reality of broken relationships and continued difficulties adjusting to life in the outside world. Regardless, as we read about the horrors of the Holocaust in an effort to remember and never allow the same, I think we should read this story and others like it. The difference, of course, is that these practices continue even now.