The Boy Who Escaped Paradise

The Boy Who Escaped Paradise is the extraordinary story of a math savant, told from a prison hospital where he's being held by U.S. officials on suspicion of murder and 11 international crimes. The son of an esteemed physician in North Korea, Ahn Gil-mo attends an excellent school catering to his mathematical gift until officials arrive at their home and drag Gil-mo's parents away.

His father returns long enough to collect him, and the two are banished to a prison camp because, as the boy learns, his father was discovered practicing Christianity. He never sees his mother again, and his father, like many others, dies from the hard labor and lack of food, leaving the son at the mercy of those who want to take advantage of his innocence and valuable skills. Gil-mo's affinity for numbers lands him an easier job with Mr. Kang, working with foreign currency. It is here that Gil-mo makes the promise he spends his life fulfilling, no matter the cost: looking after Kang's daughter, Yeong-ae.

With regular allusions to Homer, J.M. Lee (The Investigation) takes his modern-day Odysseus on a journey of epic proportions after he escapes the camp in order to keep his promise to Kang. The characters Gil-mo encounters as he follows Yeong-ae's trail from Asia to North America rival the complexity of Homer's. The novel is a reminder of the power of numbers, but one doesn't need to be a math fan to appreciate the brilliance of this work. To say any more would spoil the plot. An exciting adventure added to rich characters, all multiplied by stunning language, equals an unforgettable novel. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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