I've been making a sad trek through some of the books written about the disaster in Iraq. This is the best of the lot. Packer has masterfully combined several books into one: a long historical view, a devastating account of what went wrong, and a deeply empathetic portrait of several people whose lives have been changed by the war. To top it off, Richard Poe gives an outstanding reading performance.
"Ordinary lives," perhaps, but not ordinary people. The description of life in North Korea during the famine years is riveting, and the individual stories are deeply touching and ultimately inspiring. If this were a work of fiction, it would be a great novel. But as always, real life is more fascinating than fiction. This is journalism at its best.
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