Inspired by the story of Lee's great aunt, one of the oldest women to escape alone from North Korea, 8 Lives of a Century Old Trickster consists of eight dark and spellbinding chapters that follow this remarkable character and her family as they struggle to survive during the most turbulent times of modern Korean history. Mirinae Lee's trickster is a shapeshifter—throughout the course of these interconnected chapters she is a slave, an escape artist, a murderer, a terrorist, a spy, a lover, and a mother—a woman who must often choose the unthinkable to survive war and conquest in Korea.
Lee’s enthralling book depicts Mook during each of these incarnations, from her escape from a North Korean village to a married life her restive spirit never quite settles into ... In less capable hands, Mook’s deceptiveness as a narrator and the presentation of her life out of chronological order could be disorienting, but Lee drops the right details throughout to reinforce the connections among the stories. While Mook’s adventures in espionage feel a tad less engrossing than her more intimate dramas, Lee keeps readers hooked by expanding Mook’s universe.
Ms. Lee energetically relates each episode of her protean narrator’s biography, stressing the attitude of defiance that inspired each metamorphosis ... Despite the darkness of the history it retells, this is primarily an adventure novel, fueled by the same righteous anger that turns ordinary mortals into masked superheroes.