Review of Greenlight to Freedom

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Kansas City Teacher
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Latest Review: Greenlight to Freedom by Songmi Han and Casey Lartigue

Review of Greenlight to Freedom

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[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Greenlight to Freedom" by Songmi Han and Casey Lartigue.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Like much of the North Korean population, Songmi Han was living in desperate poverty. As a young child, she and her family lived a life of dire hardship, and many meals consisted of little more than grass. Domestic abuse, long hours of grueling physical labor, emotional abuse, and primal hunger were her constant companions. School was out of the question and she, along with her mother, had to steal food to survive. Greenlight to Freedom: A North Korean Daughter’s Search for Her Mother and Herself, written by Songmi Han and Casey Lartigue Jr, is the perilous and gripping account of Songmi’s childhood and her escape from North Korea.

As written in this book, “mindless patriotism can only last so long.” Most people know that life in North Korea is difficult and that leaving the country is not an option. In this book, Songmi Han tells her story of growing up in this military state, and her words are nothing short of shocking and endearing at the same time. The descriptions of public executions, presumably intended for population control, are painful and distressing. According to Songmi, though, this was not the worst thing she endured in North Korea. The book is endearing because there is a strong emotive undertone. Relationships, psychological well-being, and self-reflection are also important themes in this read. The most poignant part of the book is the very last page. The book’s cover may seem simple, but it is just perfect for this story.

The best part of the writing is the raw description of the events. Songmi recalls experiences from her childhood in vivid detail, both through the eyes of the child that she was and the woman she has become. The maltreatment she received by adults and the realization that North Korea was not the utopia that was described in her preschool class affected her young spirit profoundly. Additionally, I enjoyed the authors' tone. The writing itself was fluent and professionally edited, but I could still discern that the protagonist is a foreigner. This added an element of authenticity to the writing. At the end of the book, a very long list of acknowledgements further testifies to Songmi’s deep gratitude for everyone who had helped her. I really liked this part, and I sincerely hope that all those people will one day read her words. What a wonderful tribute!

There is nothing that I disliked about the book. If I had to pick one negative aspect about the writing, I might mention that some parts seemed a bit repetitive. For example, the fact that Songmi only completed one year of elementary school was mentioned many times, perhaps for emphasis. Other than this, I heartily enjoyed this book and award it a perfect 4 out of 4 stars. The descriptions described above really made it a life-changing experience. Because of this book, I have spent many hours researching the influence of totalitarian governments on the lives of their citizens because the story Songmi narrates is just remarkable. The four or five other stories I have read because of hers are just heartbreaking. As good books do, this one has really ignited a curiosity about the topic.

At one point in the book, Songmi wondered if anyone would want to read her story. This was surprising to read, as most people who will read this cannot fathom the depravity and oppression that many North Koreans must endure. All high school government, psychology, and history students should read this book. I also recommend it to readers who are interested in the plight of refugees and those who draw inspiration from reading about the trials of others. Every person who reads this story will learn something from Songmi’s experiences. As noted in the book, you may have to read it twice to fully understand it; it’s that powerful.

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Greenlight to Freedom
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Odala00phiri
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Post by Odala00phiri »

Am surprised by this new information to me. I didn't know that people in Korea suffer to this extent. Such lifestyle was horrible.
Joseph Kasapo
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Post by Joseph Kasapo »

This is a touching story that teaches peserverance and determination. Sogmi Han is an interesting character. Thanks for the book and review.
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Post by Covenant M Olusegun »

My love for South Korea makes me want to know about North Korea
This sounds like a sad but educating book
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Post by Rowana Mukwevho »

This is really a sad book. I happy that the author took time to let the world know what has been happening in Korea.
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Post by Ivan Mukaaga »

This book has really ignited my curiosity to make more research about North Korea, I had never given it much thought, but it seems North Korea matches the real definition of dictatorship. Thanks for the informative review.
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Post by ExcellenceAwuzie »

I use to think that life in North Korea was fair. Little did I know that people do suffer like Songmi Han.
Thanks to this review, I know better now.
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Yasmine M
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Post by Yasmine M »

We don't hear much about the North Korean themselves, it is always about politics and their leaders. Songmi's story is remarkable and eye-opening. I am just wondering, if she wrote the book and revealed so much about their lives, does that mean she managed to leave North Korea?
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Post by Summer Henrietta »

This is well detailed book and very engaging.
I could not take my eyes off the review. Great review.
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