All Woman and Springtime is so complex and beautiful that it’s difficult to believe it’s author Brandon W. Jones’ debut. Jones tackles the land behind the Iron Curtain, North Korea, as he weaves the chilling tale of a girl named Gi who grew up in a forced-labor camp. Jones’ wonderful prose, intricate characters and heartbreaking story make this book a must-read for us.
Gi grew up in the forced-labor camps of North Korea, and she is damaged from her horrible experiences. To cope with her awful surroundings and what she must go through, she retreats into her head — Gi is a mathematical genius, and thinking of numbers soothes her. Gi finds no comfort in the past and doesn’t expect anything to change for her, that is, until she meets Il-sun, a confident and unafraid young woman who makes quite an impression on Gi.
Il-sun wants a better life than what she has in North Korea, and she’s willing to take Gi along for the ride. The two imagine a happy life away from the horrors of North Korea, but what they get isn’t the warmth and sunshine they hope for. Il-sun’s friend does manage to get the two women across the demilitarized zone into South Korea, but instead of helping them further, he sells them into the South Korean sex trade.
All Woman and Springtime asks about the value of personal freedom and the definition of prison as it followes Gi and Il-sun through their difficult lives. Will Gi ever find the happiness she so craves, or will her life be a miserable experience as a sex worker? Jones’ debut is smart and entirely heartbreaking as the reader hopes against all odds that Gi will find something better.