Reach & Read: Three Cups of Tea, Escape from Camp 14 & Townie

A trio of book reviews!

Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson

Downloaded the audiobook with full knowledge of the scandal post- 60 Minutes expose. However, I made it through about 2 hours and couldn’t take it anymore. All I could think about was the lies and almost what feels like exploitation of human nature tendency to care for one another. I also began this book just about the time Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot (and survived) for simply going to school. Did Mortenson’s lies and deception set the world back from bringing education to others? Probably not. Malala overshadows this. Does his story detailing a pretty amazing human survival story in the ultimate elements potentially discount others? Maybe.  I just finished Escape from Camp 14 (reviewed below) and it too details what sounds like a superhuman survival story. However, I thought back to this book and scandal and a small part of me questioned his story (NOT the issue of human rights and North Korea).  Too bad greed got in the way and while the full impact of his lies is unknown, it ultimately has taken at least one life, that of co-author Relin who recently committed suicide. I found this while googling the Pakistan story. Sad. In my style here is the wine review Greed: one of the seven deadly zins. With hints of blackberry, spice, tobacco and tea leaves, it longs for power with a long finish but falls flat on your pallet.

Escape from Camp 14 – Blaine Harden

For the lovely ladies book club!  I had no idea or never thought about the existence of concentration camps in North Korea. I was aware of the tyranny to some extant the government based on Diane Sawyer’s rare visit in December 2006 to Pyongyang. This is an amazing story of the only known person (Shin Dong-hyuk) to have been bred inside a concentration and eventually escaped. Camp 14 is reportedly the worst of all in North Korea, a “complete control district”.  I had take for granted concentration camps being a thing of the past, gone with WWII. However, they have persisted in N. Korea as a way to “cleanse three generations” of one relative’s sins against the government for 50 + years. I also couldn’t help but think of some parallelism with the Hunger Games – starvation, government/military green, propaganda, torture etc. Many other points to ponder – never knowing family love, trusting no one, snitch to live, nature vs. nurture. Read it, talk with your Korean friends about it.  I hope this is true unlike 3 cups of tea, either way we can’t lose sight of the human rights violations happening just across the pond.  Bem Ju literally “Snake Wine”: a snake in a jar of distilled Soju – a cleansing and renewing like shedding snakeskin. Old ways of thinking will leave and be replaced with a fresh finish of hope and appreciation for human resilience.

Townie, A Memoir – Andre Dubus III

TownieAnother audiobook, chosen at random from Seattle Public Library (I love the Overdrive app). While this book is long (~ 14 hours) it was a very well written story and I got a lot of sewing done while listening. My jury is still out as to whether I liked it or not, but I did finish, I think mainly because I was hoping and waiting for some good news or luck to come across this family. It was a bit hard to read time after time about drinking, failed marriage, physical fighting (I would call it assault), drugs, bullies etc. However, this is a life known to many and not so far for current day.  I am thankful for my family and childhood as it was nothing like Andre’s. Once positive theme is the role of education in his life and despite no real role model, his realization that he needed to get out, away from his friends suffering from big fish little pond syndrome.  Reminiscent of communion wine, bad grapes, sour during and after taste all over your pallet but post-consumption feelings of good, compassion and thankfulness linger.

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