Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review: Somewhere Inside by Laura and Lisa Ling

Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home is a memoir of Laura Ling's time spent in captivity in North Korea and her sister, Lisa's, efforts to gain her release. This news story captured my attention as it was happening and I read this book to understand more about what had happened behind the scenes both in North Korea and here in the US.

The book alternates between Laura's story in N. Korea and Lisa's perspective from home trying to get information about her sister and working to win her release. The chapters alternate between each sister's point of view; each sister's story has it's own font so it is easy to tell whose story is being told. It is clear that the sisters are very close - they each relate the story of their childhoods living with parents who fought constantly and how that drew them closer together as siblings with older sister Lisa protecting her "Baby Girl" Laura. They don't explore the past in any great detail except to provide context for their relationship - the focus of the book is the period between March 2009 and August 2009 while Laura was imprisoned by the North Koreans.

As you would expect, Laura's part of the book recounts the time she spent in North Korea from when she and her fellow journalist, Euna Lee, were captured after stepping briefly over the border between China and North Korea, through their trial and sentence to twelve years hard labor and finally their release which was brokered with a visit by former President Bill Clinton. Lisa's chapters told the story of what was going on at home while the events unfolded in North Korea - she spoke of the impact Laura's captivity had on each of her parents, on Laura's husband Iain, and on herself. More interesting to me, however, was the detail on the media campaign and political wrangling that took place in an effort to release the two journalists. Lisa determinedly pursued every avenue politically to try to win the girls' release and it was fascinating to read about all the personalities and egos at play in the effort. It did make me wonder, however, whether if Lisa Ling had not been so well connected in the media and political worlds, if her sister and Euna Lee would ever have been released. She had a level of access to political figures not available to most.

Overall, I liked the book - I read it to learn more about what happened behind the scenes during the incident and I certainly got that from the book. The one thing that didn't sit well with me was the relative lack of emotionality present in the book. This was obviously a very trying time for both sisters but it seemed as if emotions were addressed with a level of detachment that made it difficult to really feel what they were going through - it was subtle but defintely there. That being said, however, the book still delivers the story of two amazingly determined, intelligent women caught in the middle of a geopolitical firestorm - makes for a interesting read!



  1. This is on my GR TBR shelf and I can't wait to dig into it.

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  3. "It did make me wonder, however, whether if Lisa Ling had not been so well connected in the media and political worlds, if her sister and Euna Lee would ever have been released. She had a level of access to political figures not available to most."

    I have wondered the same thing Booksnyc...who you know can make such a difference, especially in a situation like this. Also, funny you should mention picking up on the slight detachment from the horrors of the kidnapping...I noticed that when I saw the two sisters on Oprah and said as much to my daughter who was also watching.

  4. I just saw this one on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. I was tempted to buy it but have so much on my TBR list that I decided to hold off. This review makes me want to go back and pick it up though! I will have to put it on my to-read shelf on GoodReads. Such an interesting (and heart-wrenching while it was playing out) ordeal. Those women must have been terrified.

  5. Maybe the authors were afraid to let out the emotions, afraid that it would overwhelm the story?

    You are invited to add a link to your review to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon
    ( ). The Saturday Review happens every week, and it's a great place to find links to other bloggers' reviews.

  6. I've loved Lisa Ling since her days on The View, I miss her intelligence on there now! I don want to read this and it looks like it's an easy read and one I'd enjoy.