This novella is an in-between book, almost like a pre-quel. Though each of Ms. Terry’s books can be read alone, they lend support for each other, beginning with Beloved Daughter, then Slave Again, and finally Torn Asunder. The novella is short enough to be read quickly. Since I am already reading Torn Asunder, I noticed that what is introduced in this book is continued in that one. So if the story seems a little disjointed, there are several threads being introduced that will continue later in subsequent books.
The suspense and action in this book is tough as nails and somewhat graphic. The worst of it is implied, but our imaginations can easily fill in the details. This is not meant to be a feel good, tender read. The events portray the horrors of living in North Korea, how some try to cross the river into China out of desperation just to earn some money to send back to their starving families. The major thread follows Pang and Mee-Kyong after they have escaped Camp 22. They are about to cross over the border, guided by a sleazy, greedy border broker. Before crossing, Mee-Kyong gives birth to a dead baby; she is considerably weakened by the bleeding but crosses anyway. The broker sells her and another girl into a hotel that prostitutes them. Mee-Kyong adopts the young girl, Sun, and tries to protect her as best as she can.
Eventually she escapes and finds the home of an American couple operating a business in the area. But they also operate a secret seminary for refugees who desire to return to North Korea and offer hope to their friends, neighbors and families. The work is very dangerous, and only a few pass over the border at a time to minimize the risk. Mee-Kyong arrives at the house after the last group has already departed. This is where we become acquainted with Roger and Juliette Stern, the American couple who reach out to North Korean refugees as much as they are able. At first, Mee-Kyong doesn’t know how to react to the couple. The cultural differences are great, and being a fighter, she finds it hard to lower her guard and trust them. Eventually she decides to stay with them for awhile.
This book is filled with danger, suspense, and gritty reality. The author’s talents are crystal clear, as she keeps her readers on the edge all the way through. Our emotions are all over the place as we feel alternately repulsed and heart-broken by the ugly life the North Koreans face, the slavery they sometimes enter when reaching China, the indulgences of the Americans living in China, and the futility of everyone’s efforts to right the wrongs, in contrast to the little bit of hope as we see Mee- Kyon’s life transformed. There are plenty of surprises in this story, including the identity of a spy for the North Korean government in the Stern’s home. Finding the identity of the agent only intensifies the suspense because it impacts the characters in the next story, Torn Asunder.
What I like most about the author’s writing style is that she writes in a brutally honest manner, not pulling her punches in the way she confidently displays the ugly reality of refugee life and the blatant trafficking that goes along with it. While this is written from a Christian viewpoint, you don’t have to be a Christian to be swept in the poignancy of the story and tragic realities. I am looking forward to reading more books from this author.
Alana Terry loves homeschooling. She loves it so much that in addition to teaching her three boys at home, she also leads clubs and day camps for homeschoolers in her community. An eclectic homeschooler at heart, Alana enjoys the freedom of family-directed learning and also plans interdisciplinary unit studies for homeschoolers of various ages.
In addition to the “My Solar-Powered History” series, Alana has published “A Boy Named Silas: The First Five Years”, the true story of her tube-fed son’s complicated medical history. She also writes Christian fiction. Her debut novel, “The Beloved Daughter”, won second place in the 2012 Women of Faith’s writing contest.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”