Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review -- Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book source:  Personal copy
Genre:  Non-fiction
Objectionable material: detailed accounts of death by starvation

I’m voting for Pres. Obama in November.

What does that have to do with a book review?

Not much really, other than after reading Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, I’m grateful that I can vote. For anybody. Period.

Author Demick’s narrative follows the lives of six North Koreans over the span of approximately 15 years – we learn of their education, families, their lives under a totalitarian government, and ultimately, the famine, that claimed nearly 3 million lives (from 1994-1998).

This was a bleak book, but profoundly necessary to read. There is nothing redeeming about living in North Korea. It sucks. But I was amazed that in spite of the deprivation, families were still families who raised children and still wanted the best for them.

Also – the women. I am in awe of North Korean women. In the depths of the famine they were responsible for not only working (nearly 89% of all women “worked”) but they were also responsible for obtaining fuel, food and water (which was nonexistent).

Finally – as we learn the fate of these six individuals (all who defected out of North Korea, which is why we know their story), it’s painful to read how difficult it was to adjust to a free society.

This was great book to read during an election year – because regardless of what side you align yourself with – we are so enormously blessed to live in this country.

I think I’ll go buy some bread now.


  1. I loved this book - as much as you can love something that is sort of depressing. Talk about a book making me feel grate.ul for my life!

  2. Yes, freedom in North Korea is still a problem today. This book is important although I don't know if I could read it because of its somber nature.

  3. Woah this sounds like an emotional read! Thank you for sharing it.

  4. I'm always so happy to see that there are people like you, Melissa. You don't stray from difficult books such as this one and in the end you believe, what rightly is the only bottom line: we, as a nation and as individuals, are enormously blessed but that doesn't give us a right to forget about what we have that others don't. In my eyes, complacency is our modern society's biggest crime and gravest danger, because there is a very short walk from complacency to stagnation.

  5. Melissa, I read The Swallows of Kabul several years ago and the day after I finished it I heard on the news that women had been allowed to vote in Afghanistan. I cried. It's amazing how books can affect us, isn't it?