The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee –304 pages
As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told “the best on the planet”? Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family.
Twelve years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to spirit her mother and brother to South Korea, on one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable.
My Review: 4 stars
The Girl With Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story introduced me to the horrors of North Korea from an insider’s perspective. Honestly, I must be naïve, as I didn’t realize the extent of the lies, atrocities and limitations put upon the North Korean population. Yes, I understood it was a communist regime, but how deep the deception and brainwashing went, was new to me.
Lee’s story is truly remarkable and her fate was ultimately linked with good luck. Some of the situations she was either forced into or put herself into, couldn’t have been resolved without a hefty dose of good fortune. Many couldn’t have survived, let alone with family members as their side.
Although I enjoyed the entirety of the book, the second half of the book read much faster for me as her escape became imminent. Reading this true story reminds us to appreciate our freedom, which can often be taken for granted, and how the simple goodness of others can change a life.
Quotes I liked:
I hope you remember that if you encounter an obstacle on the road, don’t think of it as an obstacle at all… think of it as a challenge to find a new path on the road less traveled.”
“This is when I understood that we can do without almost anything – our home, even our country. But we will never do without other people, and we will never do without family.”
“After years in the Chinese workforce, I had developed an emotional attachment to money. My earnings were my hard work and long hours; my savings were comforts deferred.”