Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim (audio)

Without You There Is No Us by Suki KimI don’t listen to audio books very frequently. So often they just don’t ‘sound’ right to me. But I’ve had a head cold and a massive headache and did not read for 5 days. This is almost unheard of in my life. The one thing that saved me was the audio version of Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim.

Without You, There Is No Us is a memoir about Kim’s time spent posing as a missionary and teaching at a university in North Korea. I am fascinated (and horrified) by North Korea, and this book had been on my TBR for a long time. I jumped when I saw it was available in audio at my library.

Kim writes about not only her experience as one of the few foreigners allowed into North Korea, but also of the experiences of the students she teaches. At times they seem like any other 19 and 20 year olds, and then at other times the years of brain washing seep through as the parrot unlikely propaganda. Throughout her stay in Pyongyang Kim tries to open her students’ eyes to the world outside, with varying degrees of success.

Who would like this book? This book will appeal both to fans of travel memoirs and those interested in learning more about North Korea. The limits on Kim’s freedom at times brought The Handmaid’s Tale to mind, only this is real. I loved listening to every word of the book, from the food they ate to the highly orchestrated field trips the teachers were taken on. As an audio experience I rate it quite highly and haven’t been able to find any other book to follow on its heels.


  1. Hi Tanya. We are in France on holiday and I, too, have a head cold so could identify with you. Furthermore, I LOVE audio books and always have one playing in the car. Usually I will precede or follow with reading the print edition. Always enjoy your reviews. Thanks!

  2. I often listen to text-to-speech on my (old) Kindle (the new Kindles don’t have this feature). The voice is robotic (my husband thinks it’s awful) but I quite like the fact that it is not in any way distracting – every book I listen to sounds the same, allowing me to focus on the words. It also means I can switch between reading and listening. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a whole audiobook!

  3. I read this one last year and really liked it. I’m fascinated with NK for some reason…it’s been such a black box until recently. And, I’ve never read Atwood and been thinking lately I should give her a try…maybe Handmaid’s Tale is the one for me since it’s a bit similar to this.

  4. Thanks for the review! I haven’t read this book, but hope to get to it eventually. What’s happening in North Korea is so bizarre and fascinating at the same time. It’s hard to believe with technology and social media the North Korean people have no idea how completely outside of reality they are living.

  5. This sounds so interesting! I’ve let this book sit on my shelf for far too long. I’m trying to clear my shelves in the next year or so before I finish grad school, so I can get rid of books I don’t like before I move, so hopefully I’ll read this soon 🙂

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