This is a great discussion book, but takes the cake for the most depressing book of my literary lifetime. I even think this beats Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment for the unhappy literature award. Basically you have all the makings of a great book. The setting is interesting; placed in North Korea, it is in a land few of us understand. The book is very well written, matter of fact I can say that this book is well engineered. The author left us with the most positive ending possible by saving some of the characters you grew to care about. The story of life in this dreadful country is told through a young male orphan, Jun Do. We travel with him as he lives, from a horrible existence to "as good as it gets".
Enough said, this book was extremely dark. There is a level of torture described as I've not read before; there are heartbreaking scenes that reveal North Korea as the truly evil dictatorship that it is. Do not read this book to be happy, read this book to see what it means for a whole nation of people to be imprisoned.
The trip taken by the North Korean group to Texas was a goofy addition to the book. What was the author thinking of, I know not. He did tie the story line together, but it seemed very unbelievable. He seemed to show us more about how unfair a country is when there are no personal liberties.
There is a lot to discuss, however as a group discussion book, this belongs in a book club like the Marquis De Sade's Book Readers, or perhaps the Political Atrocities Literary Society. Our book club enjoyed Korean BBQ while we discussed this, but if we were true to form, we would have had a little bit of rice and vegetables and gone home hungry.
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