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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2000 Masaji Ishikawa; translation © 2018 by Risa Kobayashi and Martin Brown (P)2018 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved

What members say

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  • Overall
  • DJW
  • North Carolina, USA
  • 01-03-18

Awful! And I don't mean the book . . .

This memoir is a horrifying saga on so many levels: personal, familial, communal, political, institutional, national, and global. Masaji Ishikawa, with his elegant yet understated prose, has changed my world view forever. How can one person treat another with such stark cruelty? How can one person endure such circumstances? How can governments and institutions get away with such blatant lies and abject misconduct? No doubt, I will never again think of myself as hungry, thirsty, stifled, scared, or mistreated without thinking of Mr. Ishikawa and silently rebuking myself. Gratitude is my mantra for 2018. (Would love to follow up and know how he is managing.)

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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This was an amazing story!

I could not stop listening. I had to hear it the whole way through. I will not ruin it for you. Just know that this is a life changing story.

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Heartbreaking

The life led by Masaji Ishikawa and the majority of people living in North Korea is harsh and horrid. Masaji's story of his life in both Japan and North Korea is heartbreaking.

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A new view from a defector

I’m fascinated by North Korea and tales of those who have escaped. This is a story of a half Japanese half Korean returnee.

He was unflinching in his descriptions. He also touched on the racism and reluctance by China, South Korea, and Japan to encourage reunification.

Excellent listen.

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Listened straight through. Powerfully tragic story

Hard to understand the weight of the world that is laid upon an individual by the country and circumstance of birth.

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Such a 😢 book

This book told what happened when a young boy, his siblings and parents left Japan during a 93,000 person exodus, for what they thought would be a better life in N. Korea. As a family, they nearly starved to death. It would be years before the boy, now grown and married could make it back to Japan. But making it back to Japan wasn't what he hoped it would be either. A very sad story. And so worth reading.

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Unrelenting Depressing

I cannot even fathom how these people persevered under such abominable circumstances. This story takes place over 20 years ago, I would like to know what the current situation is. The entire population must be decimated by now. A shocking and depressing story but important to know this is happening in this world right now.

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Couldn't Stop Listening

This is an amazing story. I was heartbroken at points and feeling like a cheerleader at others. even though I knew the outcome, I couldn't help but wonder how it would come about in the end.

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Very sad story. it will make you appreciate USA.

Freedom is a blessing. This poor man went through hell. I'm glad he wrote this book so we can realize how bad it is under a country with a dictator.

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wow Wow A MUST READ

hard to believe not only one man but an entire country of peaple tremendous suffering. I understood the ones that dont want to change.
but a man that made it bk to the free world after such trails.. has rhe free world became so political correct THAT we let this mans family stave now when he is begging for our help. The leaders of our free Society don't want to step on communist toes , Japan get in the game. I doubt if you ask for a family to cross over the Border. will not start World War 3. so what if you look bad in China's eyes. china will get over it ,he's not even a Chinese citizen.. it's not too late even saving one of his grandchildren by negotiating bargaining carousing get one out of North Korea. This man's peace of mind. How worth it would be when this goes public and all of the free Society thinks you are heroes. China will love you then then....to mr Ishikawa, I am so sorry for your loss. It hurts my heart. I will pray that you find some peace it's easier for me to say find Jesus Christ. but what do you have to lose after you tried everything else . Christ is nearer than u think.... just say " Hello Jesus, "
may God bless you and all the people of North Korea.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful