A Korean-American Woman’s Promise to Reunite Three Lost Generations of Her Family.
Helie Lee made a vow to her ailing grandmother, Halmoni: that she would find and rescue Halmoni’s son, still in North Korea living under horrendous conditions. Helie felt even more urgency to save her uncle because she had learned that her novel, the best-selling STILL LIFE WITH RICE about her grandmother’s daring escape from North Korea during the Korean War, may have further jeopardized her uncle’s life, as well as that of his family living there.
IN THE ABSENCE OF SUN (Harmony Books, April 30, 2002) is the true story of what happened next. Determined to follow through on the promise she made to her grandmother, Helie embarks on a mission to free her uncle and finally rejoin her grandmother with her eldest son after forty years of separation. Helie and her father push through Korean rivers and forests, bribing and manipulating border guards and gangsters. Finally they connect with a mysterious and colorful man Helie calls “The Guide,” who through several acts of heroism secures the freedom of her uncle and his extended family. But not before her uncle is forced to make a harrowing choice: leave his North Korean family behind or continue to live in starvation and oppression never to see his mother again. And not before Helie is forced to confront her deep, sometimes ambivalent, feelings about her identity as a Korean-American woman. Mother and son are finally reunited in Seoul and cousins meet each other for the first time in a moving, incredibly powerful scene.
Reading like an action-packed thriller, IN THE ABSENCE OF SUN is a real-life daring escape and Helie Lee, honest and determined, is a woman to behold.