Somewhere Inside: A Book Review (and recommendation!)

Ever since I saw a documentary on North Korea by Lisa Ling, I have been deeply intrigued by the country. That being said, it should be no surprise that when I heard about her sister’s book, Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home, I immediately downloaded it on my Kindle. I read it in three days. And that was with a 15 month old who is in to EVERYTHING and has unfortunately mastered the skill of throwing things away. I have to constantly watch this child.

I digress.

Anyway, I finished this book in three days.

Here is a description of Somewhere Inside (from Amazon):

On March 17, 2009, Laura Ling and her colleague Euna Lee were working on a documentary about North Korean defectors who were fleeing the desperate conditions in their homeland. While filming on the Chinese–North Korean border, they were chased down by North Korean soldiers who violently apprehended them. Laura and Euna were charged with trespassing and “hostile acts,” and imprisoned by Kim Jong Il’s notoriously secretive Communist state. Kept totally apart, they endured months of interrogations and eventually a trial before North Korea’s highest court. They were the first Americans ever to be sentenced to twelve years of hard labor in a prison camp in North Korea.

Somewhere Inside reveals for the first time Laura’s gripping account of what really happened on the river, her treatment at the hands of North Korean guards, and the deprivations and rounds of harrowing interrogations she endured. 

Told in the sisters’ alternating voices, Somewhere Inside is a timely, inspiring, and page-turning tale of survival set against the canvas of international politics that goes beyond the headlines to reveal the impact on lives engulfed by forces beyond their control. 

I liked this book for a lot of reasons. I enjoyed the alternating perspectives from Laura, who was imprisoned in North Korea, and Lisa who was using all of her powerful contacts in the US to free her sister. It was an amazing behind the scenes look on relationships between politicians, media, and public communications. I was of course intrigued by Laura’s detailed account of her time in North Korea.

One thing I really respected about her writing was the fact that her tone and demeanor toward North Korea wasn’t bitter or resentful in any way. I think I expected her to hate North Korea and expose all its horrific details. While she does identify dysfunction in the government and the distorted reality of its citizens, she doesn’t demonize it or the people she met. In fact, she helps the reader to see that North Korea is full of people like us. People who are hungry for relationships, approval, connection, and love. Despite their warped view of reality when it comes to the government and the USA, they are people she was able to connect to and able to grow fond of.

If you’re looking for a good read, snag a copy of Somewhere Inside. It’s one of those books that doesn’t leave your mind quickly.


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  1. Bonnie says

    Looks like a great book.
    Another good NK book is: Escape from Camp 14