Review- A River in Darkness

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa

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The harrowing true story of one man’s life in—and subsequent escape from—North Korea, one of the world’s most brutal totalitarian regimes.

Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. His father, himself a Korean national, was lured to the new Communist country by promises of abundant work, education for his children, and a higher station in society. But the reality of their new life was far from utopian.

In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life. A River in Darkness is not only a shocking portrait of life inside the country but a testament to the dignity—and indomitable nature—of the human spirit 

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What do I remember from the night? The night I escaped from North Korea?

Where do you even begin to review a story like this one? It has haunted me ever since and not knowing what happened to Ishikawa and his family in the last few years is a hard pill to swallow. I hope that they are well and reunited.

I have always known the horrors of North Korea, but I don’t think I fully processed them until I read A River in Darkness. Ishikawa’s family was sold a dream them never came to fruition when they left their life in Japan and moved to North Korea. What unfolds in 36 years of pure terror. Reading Ishikawa’s story was difficult and I found myself having to step away from the book quite often.

I’m keeping this book short because I truly think you need to read it for yourself. I just wanted to take the time to put it on your radar in case you haven’t heard of it!

12 thoughts on “Review- A River in Darkness

  1. It would be very interesting to read this book, just to gain more knowledge on the situation. I hate to be ignorant but I don’t know how to access information about it! Thank you for reviewing this book, it’s straight on my TBR 🙂

  2. I read this book last year and loved it absolutely. What I remember from this book so clearly even now is the author’s constant feeling of starvation and hunger and how much he endured physically inspite to get the meagre portions that he could secure.
    One of my favourite quotes from the book – The problem with a propoganda is that it constantly contradicts itself.
    Thanks for sharing the review and reminding me of this book again.

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