*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Boy Who Escaped Paradise
Author: J. M. Lee
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
An unidentified body is discovered in New York City, with numbers and symbols written in blood near the corpse. Gilmo, a North Korean national who interprets the world through numbers, formulas, and mathematical theories, is arrested on the spot. Angela, a CIA operative, is assigned to gain his trust and access his unique thought-process. The enigmatic Gilmo used to have a quiet life back in Pyongyang. But when his father, a preeminent doctor is discovered to be a secret Christian, he is subsequently incarcerated along with Gilmo, in a political prison overseen by a harsh, cruel warden. There, Gilmo meets the spirited Yeong-ae, who becomes his only friend. When Yeong-ae manages to escape, Gilmo flees to track her down. He uses his peculiar gifts to navigate betrayal and the criminal underworld of east Asia—a world wholly alien to everything he’s ever known.
Thank you so much to Pegasus Books for sharing this incredibly intriguing story with me. We meet Gilmo in the midst of a shocking tragedy: someone has been murdered and Gilmo is the prime suspect. Through his interrogating we come to understand him and his life, from North Korea all the way to America. With a character reminiscent of the boy from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Boy Who Escaped Paradise tells the story of a young man who understands numbers and math better than people. In his harrowing tale, he’s befriended, used, taken advantage of, and so much worse, but he remains a loyal, but naive friend to those in his life.
I thought that this story had a fascinating, yet quite awkward protagonist who’s quirks will draw you to him, but also set the reader apart as he’s quite difficult to relate to. He’s such a trusting character, seeing only the good in others and so willing to trust. He makes his way in the world, working hard and harnessing his talent with numbers to find his place in the world. One can’t help but feel for him because of his lack of understanding of humanities inclination towards deception. His world is a cruel one. The plot moved along with great pacing. I was quickly turning the pages trying to find out what was going to happen next. Gilmo has quite a story to tell.
I very much enjoyed this novel and I hope you will as well. I thought that it was well-written, entertaining, and moving.