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Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America Hardcover – June 2, 2015

4.7 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[A] page-turner—fast-paced, suspenseful and novelistic. . . Searing."
Wall Street Journal

“Vital to our understanding of life in North Korea.”
—Washington Post

"There's something riveting about his honesty; he portrays the bleak conditions, dwindling resources, eternal uncertainty, and loss of dignity with an unashamed matter-of-factness almost at odds with the desperate circumstances...Kim's tale is a vital insight into a little-understood country and a modern day tragedy."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
"This short, brutish book—with chapter-ending cliffhangers presaging the next hard twist—will enlighten readers as to the devastating hardships facing those living in North Korea during the 'great famine.'"
Booklist
 
“Told with poise and dignity, Kim’s story…provides vivid documentation of a remarkable life. It also offers an important account of atrocities committed within North Korea that have been hidden from the West—and indeed, most of the rest of the world. A courageous and inspiring memoir.”
Kirkus Reviews

Book Description

HMH hardcover, 2015; previous ISBN 978-0-544-37317-4
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544373170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544373174
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By scesq VINE VOICE on May 13, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a hard book to put down despite the suffering involved. The reason for this is Joseph Kim tells his tale in a simple straight forward manner which made me care about what happened to him. This is not a book with a political agenda but one where the only agenda seem to be telling what happened to him and his family.

When Joseph was about 13 years old he was homeless because his father died in the great famine and his mother, after selling his sister as a “bride slave” in China, abandoned him because she was a “burden.” Homeless, Joseph went from begging to stealing to survive.

He explains, “I became a different person when I became homeless. For one thing I was shocked to learn I was a better thief than I was a beggar.” He then explains how this happened naturally as if his body knew what to do when hunger reached a certain point. He says, “I don’t remember any moral debate about whether stealing was wrong.”

Joseph is a good man driven to steal to survive in a world where death was all to common. He is much kinder to his mother than I would have been. I was happy when he found his way to freedom.

I recently read and reviewed on Amazon another book called “A Thousand Miles To Freedom” written by Eunsun Kim who escaped North Korea with her mother and sister. While both books have some similarities and both are recommended I found Joseph Kim’s book more informative about what life was like for the average North Korean before, during and after the great famine. His time homeless and stealing to survive and his time in a forced labor camp tells a lot about Joseph and the conditions people faced.

This is an important book considering the lack of information about life in North Korea. It is also an important record of what Joseph Kim, a good man, had to do to survive.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Stories coming out of North Korea are very popular now. This is the second book in two weeks that I have read that was written by a former North Korean defector. Joseph Kim's story is very similar to the story I read last week by Eunsun Kim, "A Thousand Miles to Freedom." Both authors escaped by crossing into China to the north. But here is where the similarities end.

Joseph Kim is brutally honest in his memoir from the start. He's his father's only son and was always treated with more reverence when compared to his older sister. Even his older sister shared her food with him and he always expected to be given special treatment because of his gender.

Life in North Korea as a young child started out well. There was love and parental security at first, although there are hints of his parents struggling with the marriage. But when the family endures the famine in North Korea in the late 1990s, things start to change for Joseph. He becomes just one more mouth to feed among his relatives and becomes a burden. His poor school grades and his gambling habits further disappoint his father, who had until the famine been rewarded well with a decent job and income.

His writing is easy to follow, and the short chapters end with a somewhat suspenseful statement hinting that things would get worse and worse until he finally does escape the nightmare that is North Korea.

Most of the narrative bogs down not about Christianity, or about how he found his faith, it's about the inhumane suffering of the North Koreans that he experienced while still in the country. This story is not just a Christian story, this is a story about survival and coming to realize that the North Korean government and its leaders don't care about its people.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a wonderful narrative of life in North Korea and I was so enthralled with it that I read it cover to cover in one day. I think as an American the differences are such a contrast that it is hard to imagine. And try as I might I can't imagine myself in that situation with any authenticity, because it's a leap too far from my reality. Perhaps what drew me in most what the fact that the author and I are only 10 years separated in age so when he lists the years 1996, 2001 and what he was doing those years... I was remembering what I too was doing those years, maybe at the exact same moment when he was scratching in the dirt for food, at the same time I was here in America totally oblivious to the North Korean famine.

This book will have a broad appeal to both the secular reader and possibly a Christian reader. I selected this book as a Christian reader, because the snippet of a teaser I read said something about the author meeting Christians who took him in and changed his life... so I was going into the book hoping for something along these lines. I think this is the only area where the book disappointed me. The Christian angle was downplayed a great deal. It only manifests at the very end, and it certainly is not focal point. We don't hear much about how transforming his faith was at all. Maybe the little bit they did mention will be enough for some Christian readers, and not too much for the secular readers to be put off. But I only mention it because, if like me you were hoping for a more in depth look at how faith transforms someone who has never heard about Jesus - this will not be that book.

That aside I would still encourage you to read this book, it's still a great story and an important one to be told.
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