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An unforgettable saga inspired by true events, The Last Exiles is a searing portrait of a young couple in North Korea and their fight for love and freedom Jin and Suja met and fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She was a young journalist from a prominent family, while he was from a small village of little means. Outside the school, North Korea has falle An unforgettable saga inspired by true events, The Last Exiles is a searing portrait of a young couple in North Korea and their fight for love and freedom Jin and Suja met and fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She was a young journalist from a prominent family, while he was from a small village of little means. Outside the school, North Korea has fallen under great political upheaval, plunged into chaos and famine. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, their food rations all but gone, he makes a rash decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, miles away, Suja has begun to feel the tenuousness of her privilege when she learns that Jin has disappeared. Risking everything, and defying her family, Suja sets out to find him, embarking on a dangerous journey that leads her into a dark criminal underbelly and will test their love and will to survive.


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An unforgettable saga inspired by true events, The Last Exiles is a searing portrait of a young couple in North Korea and their fight for love and freedom Jin and Suja met and fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She was a young journalist from a prominent family, while he was from a small village of little means. Outside the school, North Korea has falle An unforgettable saga inspired by true events, The Last Exiles is a searing portrait of a young couple in North Korea and their fight for love and freedom Jin and Suja met and fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She was a young journalist from a prominent family, while he was from a small village of little means. Outside the school, North Korea has fallen under great political upheaval, plunged into chaos and famine. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, their food rations all but gone, he makes a rash decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, miles away, Suja has begun to feel the tenuousness of her privilege when she learns that Jin has disappeared. Risking everything, and defying her family, Suja sets out to find him, embarking on a dangerous journey that leads her into a dark criminal underbelly and will test their love and will to survive.

30 review for The Last Exiles

  1. 4 out of 5

    Soren Petrek

    For those of us who know little about the lives of people living in N. Korea, this novel is an excellent place to begin. I enjoyed the action, characters, and descriptions of a world so unlike my own. The story of a young couple's search for one another, through varying social, economic, and physical landscapes is beautifully written, compelling, and heartfelt. I highly recommend Ann Shin's debut novel. For those of us who know little about the lives of people living in N. Korea, this novel is an excellent place to begin. I enjoyed the action, characters, and descriptions of a world so unlike my own. The story of a young couple's search for one another, through varying social, economic, and physical landscapes is beautifully written, compelling, and heartfelt. I highly recommend Ann Shin's debut novel.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Metcalf

    3.5 stars My decision to read The Last Exiles by Ann Shin was in part motivated by a desire to get a futher glimpse into life in North Korea.   Having read The Girl With Seven Lives I had something of an understanding of the dismal conditions and the difficulties of trying to escape from that country.     I was drawn in by the blurb which described The Last Exiles as being inspired by true events.    Oddly though, my early impressions were that some of the events felt highly implausible.     For 3.5 stars My decision to read The Last Exiles by Ann Shin was in part motivated by a desire to get a futher glimpse into life in North Korea.   Having read The Girl With Seven Lives I had something of an understanding of the dismal conditions and the difficulties of trying to escape from that country.     I was drawn in by the blurb which described The Last Exiles as being inspired by true events.    Oddly though, my early impressions were that some of the events felt highly implausible.     For this reason this book and I got off to a slow start but I found the second half more compelling. The story tells of two young North Korean university students.     Though they had vastly different home lives they both demonstrated what I consider to be the idealogical indoctrination (aka brainwashing) of the oppressive regime that ruled their nation.     They both stayed within the boundaries of what was allowed and they both spoke passionately of the Dear Leader believing in the righteousness of all his rules.   Suja's family was relatively well off in North Korean terms whereas Jin was from an impoverished farming family.   When he returned during uni break to find his family starving and their last remaining food stolen he  was infuriated and reacted impulsively.    This was the catalyst for events that changed both Jin and Suja's lives and ultimately the eye opening realisation that their beloved North Korean leader was not doing right by his people. The second half of the story was one of defection and escape to China.    It was also a story of risking everything in the name of love.   It shone a light on brokers, the lack of honesty and trust when dealing in the underground and black market. It drew attention to human trafficking and the mistreatment and dangers for all illegal immigrants to China.  Overall, the story worked well enough.  I was able to put aside my earlier reservations about plausibility and didnt get hung up on the way the ending came together.   If you haven't been exposed to stories set in North Korea this one would surely open your eyes and make you glad not to have been born there. My thanks to Harlequin, Park Row Books, and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elena L.

    [4.5/5 stars] Jin and Suja fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She's privileged, from a prominent family and he's humble, from a small village up north. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, he makes an impetuous decision that will impact the rest of his life. THE LAST EXILES is so good that I will try to write quite vaguely in order to not spoil anything. The story flips back and forth between Suja and Jin's perspective - it begins by capturing the wide divide bet [4.5/5 stars] Jin and Suja fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She's privileged, from a prominent family and he's humble, from a small village up north. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, he makes an impetuous decision that will impact the rest of his life. THE LAST EXILES is so good that I will try to write quite vaguely in order to not spoil anything. The story flips back and forth between Suja and Jin's perspective - it begins by capturing the wide divide between him and Suja and how their fate is tied to family roots/status. Shin offers a rare glimpse at life inside the guarded walls of North Korea, where brainwash, black market, dictatorship, corruption and abuse of power are recurrent. We are allowed to see how North Korea works different in terms of economy and politics compared to our common knowledge about South Korea. Then Shin introduces us to the alarming and horrific truths about China, shining a light on human traffic and black market. The hardships that Suja goes through are as realistic as the experiences that I have read in non-fiction books, showing how much research Shin put into the story. I was often afraid of what could happed to the characters and I didn't want to put the book down. It is ultimately a moving story about surviving by any means necessary, highlighting love, sacrifice, resilience and liberty. My small critique is that I thought that Jin's escape was too "easy", however I would understand that this fact isn't the focus of the story. Inspired by true events, this is a solid debut with fluid writing that paints a vivid portrait of a young couple in North Korea and their fight for love and freedom. This plot-driven saga pierced my heart and I can't recommend it enough. tw: violence, rape [ I received an ARC from the publisher - Park Row books - in exchange for an honest review ]

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    4.5/5 “The Last Exiles” by Ann Shin was not only an eloquently written book, but an unforgettable one—one that provided such a rare, but perceptive, glimpse of life in North Korea and about a story so raw and poignant, that ultimately moved me to pieces. Ann Shin’s choice of words and writing are/were so meticulous and thought-provoking, that still leaves me mulling. “Sometimes humans are too resilient for their own good.” This story follows the harrowing journey of Jin and Suja from the oppressi 4.5/5 “The Last Exiles” by Ann Shin was not only an eloquently written book, but an unforgettable one—one that provided such a rare, but perceptive, glimpse of life in North Korea and about a story so raw and poignant, that ultimately moved me to pieces. Ann Shin’s choice of words and writing are/were so meticulous and thought-provoking, that still leaves me mulling. “Sometimes humans are too resilient for their own good.” This story follows the harrowing journey of Jin and Suja from the oppressive North Korea, in a time when the country was collapsed under great political upheaval and in Jin’s family’s case, a dark period of immense chaos, poverty, and famine. Contrary to Jin’s upbringing, Suja is a photojournalist and privileged daughter of a head journalist at a premier news agency in North Korea. With dissimilar backgrounds and very contrasting lifestyles that were apparent, Jin and Suja find themselves gravitating towards each other, and eventually fall in love at Pyongyang University. However, when Jin tries to seize a brave moment that ends up being a mishap triggering his disappearance, Suja embarks on a treacherous trek to find him, risking everything and abandoning her family and studies. Thank you, Ann Shin, for this debut novel that was so stunningly executed—this novel had so much heart, and you had the keen ability to paint a vivid and beautiful picture of human resilience, perseverance, and courage. Additionally, I appreciated this book so much in the way that it educated readers on the realities occurring in North Korea, and the extensive research done was very evident. All in all, I highly recommend this book, and what an incredible way to start off my May reading month! “She thought of her mother wistfully, remembering a saying she used to tell her, ‘You need an empty hand to be able to hold something new.’ Her mother probably never envisioned her hand to be so empty, nor for her to seek a life so unfathomably different, so foreign and new.”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Itsbayleysworld

    Thank you Harper Collins for the advanced copy of The Last Exiles! You will see this book on the shelves on April 6, 2021! 🏞: I loved how this book took place in North Korea and China. It was a different setting than I normally read and I loved learning specifically about their government styles in this book! 🧧: the two main characters demonstrate the large contrast between poor and wealthy families in North Korea. It was heartbreaking to read about the struggles of those suffering and it was ver Thank you Harper Collins for the advanced copy of The Last Exiles! You will see this book on the shelves on April 6, 2021! 🏞: I loved how this book took place in North Korea and China. It was a different setting than I normally read and I loved learning specifically about their government styles in this book! 🧧: the two main characters demonstrate the large contrast between poor and wealthy families in North Korea. It was heartbreaking to read about the struggles of those suffering and it was very eye-opening to be grateful for having a roof over your head and food on the table. 👨‍👩‍👦‍👦: the book portrays the lengths that one will go to for their family and loved ones. Reading from the perspective of someone with such great devotion made me feel the love these characters felt for each other and their families🤍 Favorite Quote From Book: “And moment by moment she would make it through the day” I would definitely recommend this book! It was fast paced, kept me engaged the entire time and I felt myself rooting for the characters to get their happy ending! Mark April 6 in your calendar to pick up a copy! TW: abuse

  6. 5 out of 5

    Caroline (readtotheend on IG)

    Clearly a very well researched and for me, a very personal and emotional journey of Jin and Suja who are college students in North Korea. I want to be careful of any spoilers but I will say that this really highlights the hardships that people in North Korea face and not only in North Korea but in China as well. I have read and heard about what life is like in North Korea and it's so heartbreaking as I know in my own family, there were cousins of my grandmother who were in North Korea and could Clearly a very well researched and for me, a very personal and emotional journey of Jin and Suja who are college students in North Korea. I want to be careful of any spoilers but I will say that this really highlights the hardships that people in North Korea face and not only in North Korea but in China as well. I have read and heard about what life is like in North Korea and it's so heartbreaking as I know in my own family, there were cousins of my grandmother who were in North Korea and could not make it back to Seoul when the borders closed. I remember watching secret footage of North Korea with my parents and grandparents and seeing the pain on their faces. When there were a small number of families that were trying to reunify, I remember asking my grandmother if she would try to reunite with her family. She said no because it may be more painful to see someone for an hour and then give them no hope to leave their situation. What a heartbreaking consideration. I think there are some nonfiction reads about people who have been able to leave North Korea but I loved reading this fictional story that really highlights love, strength, resilience and hope.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    The Last Exile by Ann Shin is a fact-based tale of bravery, love and sacrifice by those seeking  freedom from one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. The story gives a rare look inside the day to day lives of the people of North Korea. Jin and Suja's harrowing experiences are at times difficult to comprehend. The story is fast paced and the author has an well defined writing style. An unforgettable story of love, hope, bravery and the resilience of the human spirit. Thank you to the pub The Last Exile by Ann Shin is a fact-based tale of bravery, love and sacrifice by those seeking  freedom from one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. The story gives a rare look inside the day to day lives of the people of North Korea. Jin and Suja's harrowing experiences are at times difficult to comprehend. The story is fast paced and the author has an well defined writing style. An unforgettable story of love, hope, bravery and the resilience of the human spirit. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for the opportunity to preview the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Date reviewed/posted: December 7, 2020 Publication date: April 6, 2021 When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is once again closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from Date reviewed/posted: December 7, 2020 Publication date: April 6, 2021 When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is once again closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. An unforgettable saga inspired by true events, The Last Exiles is a searing portrait of a young couple in North Korea and their fight for love and freedom Jin and Suja met and fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She was a young journalist from a prominent family, while he was from a small village of little means. Outside the school, North Korea has fallen under great political upheaval, plunged into chaos and famine. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, their food rations all but gone, he makes a rash decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, miles away, Suja has begun to feel the tenuousness of her privilege when she learns that Jin has disappeared. Risking everything, and defying her family, Suja sets out to find him, embarking on a dangerous journey that leads her into a dark criminal underbelly and will test their love and will to survive. In this vivid and moving story, award-winning filmmaker Ann Shin offers a rare glimpse at life inside the guarded walls of North Korea and the harrowing experiences of those who are daring enough to attempt escape. Inspired by real stories of incredible bravery, The Last Exiles is a stunning debut about love, sacrifice and the price of liberty. This is a book that will probably educate people about the terrors of North Korea bt also shine some light on the fact that there can be love found there as well. Miss Shin has produced some incredible films and this book is stellar as well. Expertly crafted, it is full of excellent characters and a deep yet delightful storyline. This is definitely a book club choice that I will recommend to patrons and friends alike as it is so darn good. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🍢🍢🍢🍢🍢 (a yummy Korean treat....)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    This post is adapted from my review originally published on my blog here. 📚 The Last Exiles tells of Jin and Suja, two college students who risk everything to escape North Korea. The story begins with a look at their burgeoning relationship as well as a peek at each of their backgrounds. Suja is the only daughter of a privileged Pyongyang family, while Jin is a poor scholarship student well acquainted with the pain of famine. And though Jin’s scholarship affords him a respite from daily and debil This post is adapted from my review originally published on my blog here. 📚 The Last Exiles tells of Jin and Suja, two college students who risk everything to escape North Korea. The story begins with a look at their burgeoning relationship as well as a peek at each of their backgrounds. Suja is the only daughter of a privileged Pyongyang family, while Jin is a poor scholarship student well acquainted with the pain of famine. And though Jin’s scholarship affords him a respite from daily and debilitating hunger, this isn’t the case for his parents and younger sister, a truth that nags at him continuously. Despite this deep chasm in their socioeconomic statuses, the persistent commonality they soon realize is that no matter how wealthy or connected you are, a mere whisper of disagreement with the party line can get you disappeared. This novel poignantly recounts the further atrocities Jin and Suja each face— out of one frying pan only to land into another. Ultimately, both of these characters undergo a transformation precipitated by the human rights violations described in the novel. By the end of the story, they are no longer the wide-eyed, unquestioning youths they were when they first met. Author Ann Shin weaves an authentically grim and palpable backdrop to the suffering endured by Jin, Suja, and the other defectors they encounter. Through the novel, I could not help but deeply empathize with these two as they bet their very lives for just a chance at freedom. This was an absolute page-turner for me— each scene so expertly and vividly portrayed that I had to put the book down at intervals to digest the chapters and process the heavy and, at times, overwhelming feelings the story elicited. I highly recommend The Last Exiles to anyone interested in Literary Fiction, Asian History, and Contemporary Asian Literature. You may particularly enjoy this book if you often seek out themes of survival and perseverance against formidable odds. Content warning: scenes of torture, domestic violence, forced marriage, sexual assault (rape), human trafficking

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Jung

    I highly recommend! The Last Exiles was such a vivid read that, while technically a romance novel, captures so many different genres. The story follows Jin and Suja in their harrowing journey from the oppressive North Korea and into China. Jin comes from a family of peasants, while Suja is the daughter of the head reporter at the premier news agency in North Korea. While their backgrounds couldn’t be more different, they meet and fall in love in Pyongyang at University. Separated against their w I highly recommend! The Last Exiles was such a vivid read that, while technically a romance novel, captures so many different genres. The story follows Jin and Suja in their harrowing journey from the oppressive North Korea and into China. Jin comes from a family of peasants, while Suja is the daughter of the head reporter at the premier news agency in North Korea. While their backgrounds couldn’t be more different, they meet and fall in love in Pyongyang at University. Separated against their will, they will do anything to find one another (and I mean ANYTHING!) I just finished watching the K-drama, Crash Landing on You with my boyfriend, which, funnily enough, is a romance that takes place in North Korea (literally this is a MUCH watch show, each episode is long but you WILL laugh and cry). #Thelastexiles, however, contrasts from CLoY in that it shows the much darker (and I’m sure realistic) sides of North Korea. The novel is definitely very bleak with the few glimpses into happiness/bliss found in the relationship between Suja and Jin. The writing was easily digestible and kept me interested the entire time with some really intimate and beautiful moments as well. I was rooting SO HARD for a reunion between Jin and Suja— but I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out if they have their happy ending! I do wish the passage of time were a little clearer; I often had trouble telling how much time had passed between chapters. Perhaps this was purposeful of the author, but I definitely found it a bit confusing at times. I also wish that Suja had a bit more agency — Like, I totally understand that her world was completely turned upside-down and she went from a pampered schoolgirl to literally being on the run, but, I don’t know, I just wish that she got the opportunity to really use the brain that she so clearly has! Anyway, kudos to @ann.shin1 for an amazing debut novel— I can’t wait to see what you write next! Such an interesting, well-researched, and entertaining first novel! CW: Sexual assault, violence/domestic abuse

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    I received a copy of The Last Exiles from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review. The Last Exiles follows a young man and woman in North Korea as they meet and fall in love while in university. They come from two very different classes in society but nevertheless they find a connection and attraction between them. On a visit home to his poor village, Jin finds just how badly his family is suffering under the current political climate and makes a rash decision that will change his I received a copy of The Last Exiles from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review. The Last Exiles follows a young man and woman in North Korea as they meet and fall in love while in university. They come from two very different classes in society but nevertheless they find a connection and attraction between them. On a visit home to his poor village, Jin finds just how badly his family is suffering under the current political climate and makes a rash decision that will change his life - and Suja’s - forever. Before long, the two lovers are separated yet determined to find their way back to one another. This will mean escaping the country in which they were born into, and even then, freedom may not be quite as easy. After having lived in South Korea for awhile and learning more about the history between North and South Korea, I started this novel with great interest in getting a more novel look into the lives of North Koreans. Life in North Korea is not as widely known as not many North Koreans are able to make it out to tell their stories. I thought that it was a very interesting narrative told from Jin and Suja’s point of view. The events of the story were harrowing and quite intense, even more so later in the book when Jin and Suja escape to China separately. The experiences that they have to go through even when they are “free” from North Korea is still quite traumatic especially for Suja, as a woman. I found The Last Exiles to be a eye-opening story that approached many tough situations and themes head on. It is a story that shows the North Korea situation is not quite as romantic as South Korean dramas perhaps make it seem (I’m thinking of Crash Landing Into You here.) Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me a copy of the novel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carolynn

    This novel offers a fascinating glimpse of everyday life in North Korea, shown through the love story of Jin and Suja. Jin is from a poor family in a small village that is suffering from starvation. Suja is a young journalist from a privileged family in Pyongyang. They meet and fall in love while at university, where they are mostly sheltered from the politics of North Korea. During a school break, Jin visits his home village and takes a desperate risk in order to help his family. He is soon cau This novel offers a fascinating glimpse of everyday life in North Korea, shown through the love story of Jin and Suja. Jin is from a poor family in a small village that is suffering from starvation. Suja is a young journalist from a privileged family in Pyongyang. They meet and fall in love while at university, where they are mostly sheltered from the politics of North Korea. During a school break, Jin visits his home village and takes a desperate risk in order to help his family. He is soon caught and sent to a prison labor camp. When Suja hears of Jin's escape from the camp, she sets out for China in search of the man she loves. Not knowing where the other is or if they are even alive, both Suja and Jin find themselves in desperate situations in China. Conditions in China are harsh for refugees, with legal work and safe housing difficult to find. If caught, they will be executed upon return to North Korea. This novel gives us a based-on-real-life view of the class disparity, politics, and harsh conditions that North Koreans live with and the difficulty of escaping to a better life. I enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it. The setting gave me a rare glimpse into the lives of North Koreans. The characters were well-drawn examples of class differences, but in a way where I could believe their connection to each other. The inner strength of these characters was inspiring. This novel would make for an excellent book club discussion. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Diane Ferbrache

    Set in almost modern day North Korea, I was hoping for a book that clarified what life is like for its citizens and for a romance that inspire conversation about cultural differences. In that respect, this is exactly what this book does. Although inspired by actual events, I found much of the story a bit far-fetched. While the stories of Jin's home life, arrest and incarceraton are harrowing, his escape seems almost too easy. And the tale of Suja's search for Jin, her attempt to find someone to Set in almost modern day North Korea, I was hoping for a book that clarified what life is like for its citizens and for a romance that inspire conversation about cultural differences. In that respect, this is exactly what this book does. Although inspired by actual events, I found much of the story a bit far-fetched. While the stories of Jin's home life, arrest and incarceraton are harrowing, his escape seems almost too easy. And the tale of Suja's search for Jin, her attempt to find someone to help her across the border, and her flight to China seemed just TOO contrived and simplified. I also found it difficult to believe that Suja would leave her life of relative comfort to follow a boy she barely knew. I wanted more emotion in the story of their friendship/romance. Although as the story progressed and more flashbacks told more and more of their courtship, I just found it preposterous that she would leave her family for this boy, knowing that they might be punished and certainly would never see her again. She just didn't seem that invested in him to completely give up her promising future. I did find the story of life in North Korea fascinating, especially the parts about the Kim family (leaders of NK). We know so little about this country, it was great to have a peek inside. I had no idea that escaping to China could provide a better life for North Koreans. The historical/cultural/lifestyle portions of this book are fascinating and well done. I was just disappointed in the love story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle

    E-Galley courtesy of Harlequin and NetGalley! "You need an empty hand to be able to hold something new." Overall I truly enjoyed reading this book. It’s a heartbreaking tale that goes between two characters: one a young man who is sent to a labor camp for stealing food, and the young woman who goes in search of him. It’s a well-researched look into the lives of North Koreans and the defectors looking for a better life. Any life. The copy I read was probably a pretty early version - also a pdf file E-Galley courtesy of Harlequin and NetGalley! "You need an empty hand to be able to hold something new." Overall I truly enjoyed reading this book. It’s a heartbreaking tale that goes between two characters: one a young man who is sent to a labor camp for stealing food, and the young woman who goes in search of him. It’s a well-researched look into the lives of North Koreans and the defectors looking for a better life. Any life. The copy I read was probably a pretty early version - also a pdf file full of weird formatting, so it was hard to see what would be fixed in the final version and what wouldn’t. My biggest concern was a misleading scene earlier in the book when Suja’s teacher starts to talk about the flood from the year before, and then brings out an article from 1997. This tells me the book takes place in 1998 or so. But everything else in the story points to this taking place in 2010-2011. I hope that is clarified in the final version. Timing felt off in a few other places as well - relationships, speed with which some people started to pick up new languages, events running parallel to each other not being paced at the same rate, references to how many days it should take for things to have happened, but not seeing those events play out that way on our end... Without knowing for sure how this will play out in the final, corrected version, I don’t feel comfortable giving the book more than four stars. I’ll try to keep an eye out for the book when it’s published in April.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Enid Wray

    Overall, I enjoyed this book, a solidly researched peak behind the curtain that is North Korea, and life on the run as a defector. I would call the first ⅓ of this book absolutely exquisite… the craft of the writer shone through. Sadly, from that point on things went downhill, for me, as a reader… although I did read through to the end. Everything about their escapes - both Jin and Suja - was just all too easy (not to mention predictable), so much of what moves the plot forward in the later parts Overall, I enjoyed this book, a solidly researched peak behind the curtain that is North Korea, and life on the run as a defector. I would call the first ⅓ of this book absolutely exquisite… the craft of the writer shone through. Sadly, from that point on things went downhill, for me, as a reader… although I did read through to the end. Everything about their escapes - both Jin and Suja - was just all too easy (not to mention predictable), so much of what moves the plot forward in the later parts of the books relies altogether too much on chance and coincidence, it’s hard to believe just how naive and stupid they both were (but mostly Suja, notwithstanding her relatively sheltered existence to that point in her life), and by the end, it was getting altogether too preachy for my liking, and getting far too saccharine and melodramatic. And then there is the ending… well… it should have ended before what is the last chapter and the epilogue… neither were necessary. Notwithstanding my general comments above, there are some incredibly horrific, even heartbreaking scenes, and certainly any reader will come away with a greater sense of empathy for the terrible circumstances in which far too many in this world live. It’s worth the read for that. With thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for granting me access to an early digital review copy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Harmon

    Wow. This book was a page-turner from the first chapter and took me into a world that I knew little about. The author's details about life in North Korea were both terrible and fascinating, and I was immediately invested in this story about a young couple, and their harrowing escape from their homeland. Jin and Suja are from different worlds. Suja is the only daughter of an affluent, connected family in Pyongyang, Jin is a scholarship student from a poor town in the northern region of North Korea Wow. This book was a page-turner from the first chapter and took me into a world that I knew little about. The author's details about life in North Korea were both terrible and fascinating, and I was immediately invested in this story about a young couple, and their harrowing escape from their homeland. Jin and Suja are from different worlds. Suja is the only daughter of an affluent, connected family in Pyongyang, Jin is a scholarship student from a poor town in the northern region of North Korea. They meet at university, fall in love and plan to marry, and settle into careers in journalism, spreading the propaganda of their Dear Leader. On a break from school, Jin returns home to find his family starving, and steals a bag of corn meal to help them survive. He is caught, arrested and sent to prison. Suja is devastated and tries to find a way to help Jin, until she leans that he has escaped into China. Desperate to find him, Suja risks everything to do the same. Their story, based on accounts of other North Korean defectors, is dark, violent, and frightening, especially for Suja. But the story is ultimately hopeful, and without giving away spoilers, ends the way I'd hoped it would. Trigger warnings: violence, sexual assault.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen Mathern

    The Last Exiles is about two characters, Jin and Suja, who have very different upbringings and privileges in North Korea during the time of great political upheaval. They fall in love at the University of Pyongyang- Jin is a brilliant scholarship student, and Suja is a young journalist from a prominent family. Their futures are bright and full of promise, even for Jin who comes from a family in extreme poverty. When Jin impulsively commits a crime against the government, he is sent to a North Ko The Last Exiles is about two characters, Jin and Suja, who have very different upbringings and privileges in North Korea during the time of great political upheaval. They fall in love at the University of Pyongyang- Jin is a brilliant scholarship student, and Suja is a young journalist from a prominent family. Their futures are bright and full of promise, even for Jin who comes from a family in extreme poverty. When Jin impulsively commits a crime against the government, he is sent to a North Korean labor camp, which who one ever returns from. He manages a harrowing escape, and this action inspires Suja to defect, leave her privileged lifestyle and look for him in China. While Jin is relegated to working in underground markets, Suja, being a woman, suffers much more dire consequences. This story is very well-written and was a page turner. Shin does a great job of describing the genuine love and respect these two have for each other, as well as the bleak situations that North Koreans are living under. The propaganda presented in the book was both frightening and disturbing-- I appreciated the character's grappling with it as they slowly discovered the truth. There are a lot of twists and turns in this book, and although the end doesn't seem very plausible, it is based on a true story and events.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Prendergast (lifeandbookswithme)

    Out last month, this historical fiction novel follows a young couple named Jin and Suja who are university students in Pyongyang, North Korea. Suja is from a wealthy family who lives in the capital and Jin is from a poor area and attends the university on a scholarship he was awarded based on scholarly merit. Their relationship isn’t widely known due to their varied socioeconomic backgrounds. When Jin goes home and returns with a black eye, Suja knows he’s in trouble. He is arrested shortly ther Out last month, this historical fiction novel follows a young couple named Jin and Suja who are university students in Pyongyang, North Korea. Suja is from a wealthy family who lives in the capital and Jin is from a poor area and attends the university on a scholarship he was awarded based on scholarly merit. Their relationship isn’t widely known due to their varied socioeconomic backgrounds. When Jin goes home and returns with a black eye, Suja knows he’s in trouble. He is arrested shortly thereafter for trying to help his impoverished and starving family. Jin is imprisoned but manages to escape and Suja decides to risk it all, leaving her family behind to search for him. I really enjoyed reading about North Korea and China as a setting. I have never read anything that takes place in Korea before and I found it to be really interesting. It brought issues to light that I never knew existed, such as sex trafficking of Korean women in China. The love story was a let down for me. The reader really doesn’t get enough time to get to know them and become invested in their story before Jin is imprisoned. I found the characters to be flat in parts and I didn’t really understand why Suja would risk so much for a man who she seemed to barely know. I also found myself questioning the ease of Jin’s escape from a war prison in North Korea.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Thanks to NetGalley for the opporunity to read and review this book! Two young students in North Korea, from different backgrounds and situations, become friends at the government university. One is incarcertated for a petty crime and escapes a brutal regime. The other, hearing of his escape, dares to try to find him. Will they survive one brtual dictatorship as exciles ina country known for human traffiking and their own brutal human conditions? North Korea is not a topic normally seen in stories Thanks to NetGalley for the opporunity to read and review this book! Two young students in North Korea, from different backgrounds and situations, become friends at the government university. One is incarcertated for a petty crime and escapes a brutal regime. The other, hearing of his escape, dares to try to find him. Will they survive one brtual dictatorship as exciles ina country known for human traffiking and their own brutal human conditions? North Korea is not a topic normally seen in stories. Either conditions arent much known or escapees arent readily telling their stories in this format. BUT THIS IS WHY I READ HISTORICAL FICTION. This sotry is based on a compliation of true stories and kept me on edge. I always put myself in the characters shoes and wonder what I would do. This is why we must be careful how we take care of our democracy as well. I could go into the political ramifications, but instead I will say, this is a short and impactful read. Very worthy or your time. 4+

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Suja lives a moderately prosperous life in North Korea. A university student, she's a intern at NCNA, the paper where her father works. Jin, not so much. He's a scholarship student from a poor family that's eating pine bark. A police raid at his family's building leads him to follow an officer who has taken a pack of cornmeal, which he then steals- and his thievery becomes a cause celebre for the government. He's sentenced to a labor camp but manages to escape and Suja, a very naive young woman, Suja lives a moderately prosperous life in North Korea. A university student, she's a intern at NCNA, the paper where her father works. Jin, not so much. He's a scholarship student from a poor family that's eating pine bark. A police raid at his family's building leads him to follow an officer who has taken a pack of cornmeal, which he then steals- and his thievery becomes a cause celebre for the government. He's sentenced to a labor camp but manages to escape and Suja, a very naive young woman, sets off to China to find him. Their journeys are told in alternate chapters. Both are grim. Shinn doesn't pull punches with regard to the economic situation in North Korea (beyond the famine, there'a a memorable scene in a store) or the way refugees are treated. It's a tough tale in spots but realistic. I was struck by how Suja's incredibly stupid and impulsive decision...well, no spoilers but these two are lucky to be alive. Thanks to the Publisher for the ARC. This is a page turner.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I've read a few memoirs by people who defected from North Korea through China. This story is the same, though a little contrived when it comes to the brainiac, privileged Pyongyang girl deciding to head off to China on her own, against-all-odds quest. What's new? The novelist's touch of immersive sensory details. About the cold, about rough farms, about food, especially about food from the perspective of people who've been starving. I always feel a little conflicted reading these stories about hu I've read a few memoirs by people who defected from North Korea through China. This story is the same, though a little contrived when it comes to the brainiac, privileged Pyongyang girl deciding to head off to China on her own, against-all-odds quest. What's new? The novelist's touch of immersive sensory details. About the cold, about rough farms, about food, especially about food from the perspective of people who've been starving. I always feel a little conflicted reading these stories about human trafficking. On the one hand, story is a powerful way to raise awareness. On the other hand, they have a feeling of Victorian morality tract behind them, setting up obvious evil against obvious good and trying to shock people like me into doing something, anything, from thousands of miles away. To its credit, this book doesn't treat women's trauma as entertainment and suggests that there is a little moral complexity in some of these situations. Interesting quote from the character Jin: You need to be a little bit evil to survive.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Linz

    Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review. This is clearly a well-researched, thoughtfully approached novel about modern life in North Korea and those trying to escape it. It's a much-needed book in the market and I can absolutely see it appealing to both book clubs and classroom curriculums. From a fiction standpoint, the world-building is very good, although I do think the time period could have been more clearly established sooner. While there are two main char Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review. This is clearly a well-researched, thoughtfully approached novel about modern life in North Korea and those trying to escape it. It's a much-needed book in the market and I can absolutely see it appealing to both book clubs and classroom curriculums. From a fiction standpoint, the world-building is very good, although I do think the time period could have been more clearly established sooner. While there are two main characters, occasionally the reader will jump to another narrator for a sentence or paragraph, which I found a little jarring in the storytelling. I also think the overall character development could have gone deeper, which would have allowed for more character growth over the story arc. This is great for people who are looking for something a little more fast-paced while doing some self-education.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbi

    The Last Exiles shares a more in-depth look at the life of people in North Korea. Jin was able to attend the university in Pyongyang on scholarship--giving him many opportunities for a better future for him and his family. Suja came from a prominent family and lives a privileged life. Despite living vastly different lives, Jin and Suja fell in love while studying at the university. While visiting home on break, Jin finds his family starving after being raided by police. He makes an impulsive dec The Last Exiles shares a more in-depth look at the life of people in North Korea. Jin was able to attend the university in Pyongyang on scholarship--giving him many opportunities for a better future for him and his family. Suja came from a prominent family and lives a privileged life. Despite living vastly different lives, Jin and Suja fell in love while studying at the university. While visiting home on break, Jin finds his family starving after being raided by police. He makes an impulsive decision that sets a downward spiral and tears him and Suja apart. A few bad decisions later, both Jin and Suja were in poor conditions both hoping they would see each other again. It was heartbreaking to read about the struggles of the people in North Korea just to seek sustenance. I was more engaged in this book than I expected to be, so I definitely recommend. Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Lowe

    I had such high hopes for this book, as I am interested in the stories of people living in North Korea. This story fell a little flat, however. The plausibility of the story line is what makes this unbelievable. The likelihood of two people from vastly different background getting together in the end is reminiscent of a fairytale we all know., but that is why this is labeled as fiction, it doesn't have to be believable. I was looking for a book with a little more substance than this, so non-fict I had such high hopes for this book, as I am interested in the stories of people living in North Korea. This story fell a little flat, however. The plausibility of the story line is what makes this unbelievable. The likelihood of two people from vastly different background getting together in the end is reminiscent of a fairytale we all know., but that is why this is labeled as fiction, it doesn't have to be believable. I was looking for a book with a little more substance than this, so non-fiction tales of this country is what I will reach for next. The story was a good one, but not a great one. I will however, be recommending it for our book club. It is an easy read and quite interesting.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    As a reader who is always avid for books that tell us more about North Korea, I was happy to get an opportunity to read and review this book. The story line is pretty simple--a love story about a poor boy and a privileged young girl who need to escape North Korea both for their lives and their love. There are enough descriptive details to paint a story of what life is like in North Korea and what life is like for those who are able to escape, but it didn't really tell me anything new and the sto As a reader who is always avid for books that tell us more about North Korea, I was happy to get an opportunity to read and review this book. The story line is pretty simple--a love story about a poor boy and a privileged young girl who need to escape North Korea both for their lives and their love. There are enough descriptive details to paint a story of what life is like in North Korea and what life is like for those who are able to escape, but it didn't really tell me anything new and the story has too many coincidences for it to seem authentic. It would be a good read for readers who know nothing about North Korea and would like to know more. That alone makes it a very worthwhile introductory read. Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Suja is a university student from a wealthy family, hoping to be a photographer when she meets Jin. Jin is a scholarship student from a poor family, made worse by the severe actions of the government. Both believed in the “Dear Leader” of North Korea until events led to them leaving Pyongyang, and realizing the lack of freedom in North Korea. It was hard not to read the book in one sitting, since I was at the edge of my seat anticipating Jin and Suja’s fate. There are few books about North Korea Suja is a university student from a wealthy family, hoping to be a photographer when she meets Jin. Jin is a scholarship student from a poor family, made worse by the severe actions of the government. Both believed in the “Dear Leader” of North Korea until events led to them leaving Pyongyang, and realizing the lack of freedom in North Korea. It was hard not to read the book in one sitting, since I was at the edge of my seat anticipating Jin and Suja’s fate. There are few books about North Korea, and I highly recommend this title. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. I look forward to more from this author.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nelda Brangwin

    Shin, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, makes her debut in fiction by giving readers a glimpse of life in North Korea. Focusing on the romance between a girl whose father works for the government newspaper and a young boy who is thrown into prison for stealing cornmeal for his starving family. Jin, the young man escapes and Suja is determined to find him. Shin, whose previous films have documented the hardships and the price North Koreans have to pay so they can escape gives credence to this bleak a Shin, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, makes her debut in fiction by giving readers a glimpse of life in North Korea. Focusing on the romance between a girl whose father works for the government newspaper and a young boy who is thrown into prison for stealing cornmeal for his starving family. Jin, the young man escapes and Suja is determined to find him. Shin, whose previous films have documented the hardships and the price North Koreans have to pay so they can escape gives credence to this bleak and fast-paced story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Neil Spiegel

    Every child born in North Korea is born with the same naivety, love and hope of those born in the west. This book shines a bright light on what a culture of fear and repression can do to that naive heart in all of us. It provides a relatable step into a profoundly foreign world. The naivety of young love, the boundless cruelty of a society buried in fear. The enduring hope and heart which may not survive but can struggle. With a memorable volley of right chosen words the novel reminds us of the f Every child born in North Korea is born with the same naivety, love and hope of those born in the west. This book shines a bright light on what a culture of fear and repression can do to that naive heart in all of us. It provides a relatable step into a profoundly foreign world. The naivety of young love, the boundless cruelty of a society buried in fear. The enduring hope and heart which may not survive but can struggle. With a memorable volley of right chosen words the novel reminds us of the fine balance between hope, struggle and despair that resides in the human soul.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Kang

    A powerful story that needed to be told. Eye-opening & gut wrenching to read about the lengths North Koreans have to go through & their harrowing experiences to attempt escape & find freedom. An emotional journey of love & sacrifice. I was so invested in Suja's & Jin's characters & felt so much of their pain. An inspiring portrait of courage & survival. The strength & bravery they found within themselves to never give up hope & their will to survive were empowering & moving. A truly intimate, vi A powerful story that needed to be told. Eye-opening & gut wrenching to read about the lengths North Koreans have to go through & their harrowing experiences to attempt escape & find freedom. An emotional journey of love & sacrifice. I was so invested in Suja's & Jin's characters & felt so much of their pain. An inspiring portrait of courage & survival. The strength & bravery they found within themselves to never give up hope & their will to survive were empowering & moving. A truly intimate, vivid & moving portrayal of resilience, hope & love...I couldn't recommend this book more!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    A beautiful story of two young college students in love at a university in North Korea. One rash choice leads to one of them sentenced to a cruel work camp and the other one heartbroken. This is a story of struggle and risking it all for the chance of reuniting and living in freedom. So many authors will take 400-600 pages or more to tell you a long meandering tale. This author does it in 330 pages. As much as I liked the author not dragging out certain aspects of the story, some things happened i A beautiful story of two young college students in love at a university in North Korea. One rash choice leads to one of them sentenced to a cruel work camp and the other one heartbroken. This is a story of struggle and risking it all for the chance of reuniting and living in freedom. So many authors will take 400-600 pages or more to tell you a long meandering tale. This author does it in 330 pages. As much as I liked the author not dragging out certain aspects of the story, some things happened implausibly quickly. Over all it is a wonderful story.

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