Barbara Demick's book, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, attempts the nearly impossible task of introducing and immersing readers to an utterly foreign and inaccessible world. Demick's recounting of the stories of six North Korean defectors seems designed to emphasize the regular aspects of their lives rather than the incomprehensible - the concerns of life that Americans and North Korean citizens share. Many times Demick is successful in drawing her reader into the forbidden world of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), but some tales are so jarring that one has to fight against disbelief and shock to stay connected to the characters. This is the kind of book that is riveting one moment and revolting the next: a fitting description, perhaps, for the country it explores.
Six North Koreans' stories are intermingled to create Demick's narrative. All are ...
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