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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Nothing To Envy

Reading about the North Korean defectors in Nothing To Envy (2010), my mind kept searching for an adequate and fresh way to describe their plight. And although author Barbara Demick is too talented to fall back on that stale "triumph of the human spirit" tripe, that's the best this less skilled writer can summon this moment. From the late 70s to the present, North Koreans have endured hardship that reads like science fiction.

Like many first-rate non-fiction books, Demick's harrowing oral history of six "...ordinary lives..." is something I probably would not have picked on my own - a trusted reader recommended it to me. I also wouldn't describe it as a pleasant reading experience. But, each time I do read something like this - provided the author, like Demick, has worked assiduously at their craft - I try to learn a bit more about what it really means to be resilient. The obstacles we encounter daily in our privileged lives are so puny compared to what is described in Nothing To Envy. I yearn to be more consistently successful retaining this perspective in the future when faced with a minor, laughable inconvenience.

Strong and compelling, start to finish, Demick really hit her stride in Chapter 14, entitled The River. The defection scene in that chapter was perfectly modulated - tense, without being capital "D" dramatic; inspiring without ever crossing into mushy-land. If any of you decide to read this book, please share your impressions with me. You can do so with a comment here so others will know your thoughts, or write something offline to me if you're hesitant about being "public" with your thoughts. Either way, I'm curious to hear from you.  

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