This book nearly screamed at me to grab it off the shelves of my local library. In Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, author Barbara Demick weaves together stories from the lives of defectors from North Korea, based upon hundreds of interviews she conducted while living and working in South Korea.
The book immediately drew me in with a satellite photo from NASA of the Korean peninsula at night. The contrast is startling. I thought I knew something about North Korea - but that picture told me how little I knew about this hermit nation.
North Korea is like a black hole - virtually no lights on throughout the entire country.
South Korea is lit up like a Christmas tree.
Demick starts telling us how darkness can be a blessing to some in North Korea and then takes us into the lives of Mi-Ran and her boyfriend, Jun-Sang, as well as four other North Koreans.
Their stories completely pulled me in. I found myself fascinated with their journeys, their struggles, their triumphs, their pain. I knew that North Korea had experienced a famine fairly recently, but knowing it as fact is completely different than feeling it through the lives of these people.
Demick expertly weaves the stories together, along with the history of the Korean peninsula, North Korea in particular.
I nearly cried so many times during the book. I raged at the selfish pigheadedness of the North Korean dictators. When my husband's cousin mentioned pulling weeds and throwing them over the fence of their backyard, I immediately thought, "That's what the North Koreans would gather and try to cook for something to eat."
Thank you, Barbara Demick, for introducing me to these ordinary people who fought so hard and lost so much. It's changed my outlook on life, and helped me realize how blessed I am.