I learned a lot from this book. My cartoonish visions of North Korea become less of a caricature with every good new information source, but I'm seeking these things out. It's way too easy in the US to see the DPRK in a two-dimensional way -- much like we saw the USSR during the Cold War, but with even less information. So I'm glad for anything that can give me more information about the North Korean people and the country. For instance, the fish is apparently excellent!
This is an incredibly interesting memoir told in the most bland way possible. I really wanted to love it, and I'm quite impressed with this woman and her family. I don't know whether it was the translation or the writing itself, but the writing could not have been more dull. It's a real shame, since the story could have been thrilling. Perhaps with a helpful co-writer, this would have made a bigger impression.
It feels a bit like the author wanted to please everyone. She works hard not to offend, so every negative comment is offset by a positive partner. "America seems X, but I love Y about America." The only thing that doesn't get this overly level-headed treatment is Kim Jong-un and family. I wondered from time to time if even that was done to please her readers. (I doubt they're handing out copies in the DPRK.) It was clear she tried not to make this book political, but how can you write about an "escape" from your home country without it being somewhat political.
One thing that caught my interest is how many successful escapes there are from North Korea. This isn't expanded on in any way, and it's hard to get an actual "count" since many people stay in China illegally (and dangerously, as Eunsun Kim's story portrays.) I did some interweb searching afterward and apparently the defectors who make it to South Korea (the most common place to head) are usually young women much like Eunsun Kim, so reading her story is a good example of the dangers and perils involved in getting out of the DPRK and eventually safety in another country.