In common with other accounts of life in North Korea, this book paints a pretty bleak and often harrowing narrative about starvation, corruption, executions, prisons and people who have to do anything and everything in order to survive the horrors of the regime in the 1990s. Hyok Kang is not a particularly nice person, his father even less so, but the nice people are dying on the platforms of the train stations. To survive, eventually they leave for the South, via China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. They're welcomed by the southern diplomats but in the South they are not trusted by the natives. The very skills that enable their survival and escape make them suspicious characters in the eyes of their Southern brethren. Still it is better than starvation or execution. It is a short read (about 160 pages) but has no less impact for its brevity. I am left wondering after this story what became of the friends he left behind (as Hyok himself wonders) and if the situation in the North has improved in the last decade – we have not heard much of late.