The book starts with Miss Kim laying in her freezing cold State provide apartment, starving to death, abandoned by her mother and sister while she writes her last will and testament at age 11. She had already watched her beloved father and grandparents die of starvation, now she realizes it's her turn. But her mother does return and decides they must escape. The journey is long, arduous, and even after escape to China things are not all peaches and cream. Her mother is sold to a man who wants a son, and needs a woman to provide him one. He's a cruel man, his family is cruel to their new "in-laws", and the Chinese police are always on the lookout for North Korean refugees to return home for punishment and torture. Even after giving him a son, they do get captured, deported and escape again, get caught, escape and try again. Years of hunger, sadness, separation from their new baby brother and each other, torment, backbreaking toil and horrific treatment by the Chinese. And then they escape to Mongolia with the help of South Korean Protestant missionaries for final escape from constant fear to South Korea, but only after they spend months of interrogation to ensure they are not North Korean spies.
I read all 228 pages in the space of one day. It was that gripping. While in South Korea I was treated with a trip to a border outpost/visitor center overlooking the north. It was an education of a lifetime. And now I have an inside view of the hell on earth that I could only see in the distance through binoculars from that visitor center. Read this book, you'll be forever changed.