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No Space For Love

No Space For Love by Ellen Mason revolves around a system of lack of freedom, abject poverty,  extreme living conditions, sickness, and starvation. This gripping novel is divided into four parts which convey the stories of Ha-na and Seng-il, two North Koreans who become refugees in China. The first part follows the tragic story of Ha-na, her life in North Korea as a teenage girl, to becoming a young mother in China. Seng-il’s situation in the second part is not any less tragic as he escapes from North Korea in search of a better life. The two final parts outline how their story intertwines and their journey to a life of freedom in the United States.

Finding out a substantial part of the novel is based on actual events, one cannot help but sympathize with Ha-na’s and Seng-il’s experiences. It is characterized by death, famine, suffering, and unsightly situations. Narrating Ha-na and Seng-il’s story from a first-person perspective, readers get a closer insight into their lives as they are regularly subjected to inhumane conditions that lead to years of trauma, like when Ha-na becomes a sex slave. The author relates the horrendous situations North Korean refugees go through and how they are often later forcibly repatriated back to North Korea by authorities. They are beaten, tortured, and sent to prison camps after repatriation as the North Korean government treats emigrants from the country as defectors. Reading about a system where the subject of “liberty” or “human right” is a death sentence could prove to be a culture shock for many readers. Noticeably, the author employs a subtle hint of satire while referring to the political situation in North Korea.

While based on true events, No Space For Love is a thought-provoking work of Asian American fiction and a memorable read. Readers will experience the profound journey of these two teenagers, witness their powerful friendship, and see how these kids realize that they need more than food; they need to be free from oppression to thrive.

Pages: 304 | ISBN: 1955196745

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