by Hyeonseo Lee
“The Girl with Seven Names” is a remarkable story of a young woman’s quest for freedom and happiness. Hyeonseo Lee is the author of this perfect and fantastic book. This is an inspiring story of courage and bravery as one woman struggles to keep her family together after separation that included varying periods of incarceration for each of the three-member family. This is a fascinating, heart-wrenching book about a family’s escape from the oppressive authoritarian regime in North Korea. The Girl With Seven Names is a well-written autobiography of a very brave woman born in North Korea. She informs the reader of the lack of freedom available to the citizens of North Korea through the day-to-day experiences of her life there. Hyeonseo is a very skilled and intelligent writer. The author gives a very clear picture of everyday life and her escape initially into China, then South Korea. This book is incredible and tells a story that is almost unbelievable. Such a humbling read. The strength of the author is nothing short of amazing. “The Girl With Seven Names” is a fascinating, yet horrifying look behind the curtain of the despotic rule that is communist North Korea. From the start, readers know that the author has successfully defected and lived to tell about it, but the tension and suspense in the story come from a never-ending series of obstacles, bad coincidences, and narrow escapes.
Bribery is everywhere for everything, including safe passage and fake identification papers. After sneaking across a river into China at the age of 17, Hyeonseo Lee (her seventh name) pretended to be a Chinese Korean. She lived in fear of being deported to North Korea if authorities found out she was an illegal immigrant. Discovery would mean that she and her whole family would be sent to prison camps and tortured or executed. After 11 years of this charade, Hyeonseo could take the pressure no more and decided to flee to South Korea, where she would immediately be given asylum and full citizenship rights. Getting there was only the most dangerous part of the challenge. Adjusting to life in a democracy was more difficult than it would seem, and she longed to be reunited with her mother and brother who were still in North Korea. The family developed an escape scheme, but nothing went according to plan. Don’t be surprised if you find your heart pumping as you read of Hyeonseo’s heroic improvisations when things go wrong. Finally, “The Girl with Seven Names” is a perfect and powerful book for everyone to learn more about life in North Korea. A true story of a young girl’s life in North Korea and her journey to freedom.