Love Beyond Measure
written by Katie Schell
published by Katie Schell
Why did I pick this book: Our book group selected this as our November read.
You may remember that Belinda also reviewed this book back in October. You can read her review here.
Did I enjoy this book: I did enjoy this book, more so after I had the chance to meet the author and her mother. Ms. Schell and Mrs. Crimbchin (Ock Soon Lee) came to our book group in November to talk about Love Beyond Measure. That was a great experience.
At first, I didn’t quite understand the narrative of this book. It was a bit choppy and repetitive. Don’t let this deter you in any way from reading this book, I’m glad I didn’t. I learned later that the story is basically a verbatim transcript of the tapes recorded by Ock Soon Lee for her family. She wanted to tell her story. Knowing this makes the book all the more special and real, and so worth the read. It is my understanding that Ms. Schell pieced her mother and father’s story together from her father’s letters, her mother’s tapes, and from various conversations with people who knew Pega and Frank during the Korean War. The letters (there are a few in the book) were found after Frank’s death. Pega had never opened the box of what Frank called “important papers” until recently. Inside that box was every letter written by Frank, his parents, officials, friends, etc from 1950-1952.
Love Beyond Measure doesn’t sugarcoat what had happened in Korea during the war. If I didn’t know it was a true story, I wouldn’t believe it. I would say it was a bit of a stretch for one character to go through so much in one fiction book. But this isn’t fiction. This is true. The things Pega saw, experienced, did are frightening. I could never imagine having to go through what she and so many others went through and having the will to not give up. The things women had to do and see make my heart ache. And to actually hear Ock Soon Lee talk about these events and the people she met, there is still so much sadness in her. She still sees things I’m sure she wishes she had never seen.
Ock Soon Lee’s story is amazing. You read history books, you read veteran’s accounts, you read articles, but it doesn’t always seem real. You know it’s true but it doesn’t hit home. This is a real person’s story that will make an impact on you. It will stay with you. I am in awe of the strength, courage, and faith that Pega (Ock Soon Lee) had throughout her life and that of her daughter, Katie Schell, and her husband Frank. Ock Soon Lee (Pega) told us (referring to her childhood in Korea and Frank), “I didn’t know God but God knew me and preserved me for this guy.”
Would I recommend it: I would recommend this book. It is a story of strength, faith, and undying love that will stay with you long after you have read the book. And if you ever get the chance to hear Ms. Schell and Mrs. Crimbchin speak about Love Beyond Measure, do it.
Will I read it again: I probably won’t.
About the book – from Goodreads: Imagine being a seven year old orphaned girl given over to another family to be their slave. Imagine being alone in this world; unwanted and unloved by anyone. Imagine being a young woman when war breaks out in your city – Seoul. This is the true story of Ock Soon Lee (Pega Crimbchin), a Korean peasant who survived some of life’s most upspeakable suffering. The war had left her near starvation and sometimes even death. Somehow while hundreds around her were killed or died during their escape, Ock Soon Lee survived. It is the story of one woman’s courage and strength, hope and love that would carry her from life as a Korean peasant to that of an American citizen. Follow her journey and the miracles she encounters as she escapes communism. This is a book you will never forget. The memoirs are written by Ock Soon Lee’s daughter, Katie Schell.
How the book came to be.
I remember as a young girl, perhaps about eight or nine years old, lying with my mom in her bed. As I lay next to her, she was telling me the story of her journey from Seoul to escape communism. Of course I had no idea where Seoul was or what Communism was. But the story pierced my heart. As she described walking in the snow and ice for over 100 miles and all the while carrying a seven year old on her back, I wept. The tears ran down my cheeks in quiet grief.
I will never forget the description of mothers who left their babies wrapped in a blanket along the path because they could not carry or feed them anymore. I remember thinking as a child, “But Mom, why didn’t you pick them up?”
I have always wanted to write my mother’s memoirs, the sorrow, the suffering, the redemption, the joy. After my father passed away on February 15, 2012, I sat down to record their history.
It was a challenge to tell the story as authentically and true to their spirit as possible.
Thirty years ago, my mother, who was illiterate put her story to cassette tape. I tell her story in Part One of the book from the eyes of a Korean peasant – taken from her own words – in her own fashion.
In Part Two, you will find the story as told through my father’s eyes – a middle class American soldier who meets and falls in love with this peasant girl.
In Part Three, you will find the story told from a third party’s point of view.
I hope you enjoy the true story of one woman’s incredible survival, against all odds and the love that lasted a lifetime.
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