Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden




By: Blaine Harden
Published by: Viking
Released on: March 29th, 2012
Source: book from publisher to review
Targeted Age: Adult
Purchase from: Amazon 

The shocking story of one of the few people born in a North Korean political prison to have escaped and survived. 

North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin's Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Donghyuk did.

In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin's life unlocks the secrets of the world's most repressive totalitarian state. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence-he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family. Through Harden's harrowing narrative of Shin's life and remarkable escape, he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world's darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance, courage, and survival -quoted from Goodreads

I want to start off by saying I normally do not review adult books on Mundie Moms. That doesn't mean I don't read them, because I do. My main focus on my blog is YA books, but there was something about this story that made me say yes to reviewing it here on the blog. It's not a heartwarming story nor is it a paranormal, contemporary or historical YA read that you'd normally see me get all excited about. Instead, this story is a brutal, horrifying, eye opening story into one man's survival, courage and bravery in escaping the unescapable Camp 14 in Northern Korea. After all, how can anyone escape an camp that's "non-exisstant". 

Part of me excepted this book to take place during a war. I foolish read camp and immediately thought of a prison camp. I've done a lot of reading up on WWII and the horrific things that happened then. I know all to well about the horrible things that happened in German prison camps during that time as my grandfather was a POW, but this story isn't one that happened during a war, this is a story that is happening now, in our day. Though the makings of this story started years and years ago, Shin's journey began in the early 1980's and ended recently when he escaped. Yes, I said recently.This is a story about incredible courage, the will to survive, and the unthinkable strength one man had to change his future, or to give himself a future he had no idea existed.  

This story is one that would have never had been told had it not been journalist Blaine Harden's promoting and for Shin's willingness to educate others about the horrifying atrocities that happen in this prison camps North Korea. Really this camp sounds more like concentration camp than a prison camp. It was sickening to me to find out that things like this still go on in the world, and what Shin had to endure since he was toddler. Not only that, I can't imagine what it was like for his late mother who didn't have any control over had really happened to her son. There's so much about this story that has left me a little lost for words about what I just read. 

Blaine does an amazing job at not only telling Shin's story, but he gives readers an understanding at how something like this has gone on unknown for so many generations. Shin's chilling details about his life in Camp 14 go beyond those that you'd find in a YA dystopian. The things Shin endure are unthinkable. Forced into hard labor at a young age, starved, beaten, and having to watch part of your family and even fellow prison mates killed in front of you are things I can't even imagine witnessing. What's more surprising about this story, is Shin is the ONLY known person to every escape Camp 14 and survive.

Escape from Camp 14 will not only allow readers to met an incredibly courageous person, but it will definitely give readers a glimpse into the disturbing things that happen in one of the world's most mysterious, dark nations. This is a harrowing story I'd recommend to older, mature readers as there are some very disturbing scenes in this book. This story isn't for the faint of heart, but it's a powerful, thought provoking book that will haunt you long after you read it. 





I purposely did not rate this story, as I personally feel wrong rating a book based on a person's real life experiences. 

2 comments:

  1. This sounds like an extremely important book that I hope mature YA readers will consider. Thanks for your review and recommendation.

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    Replies
    1. Ann, you're welcome! Thank you for your comment. It's an extremely important book to read, which is one of the reasons why I featured it. I hope more people will become aware of it and read it.

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