Regular price: $17.49

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
OR
In Cart

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

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.7 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    174
  • 4 Stars
    42
  • 3 Stars
    13
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 4.7 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    159
  • 4 Stars
    36
  • 3 Stars
    9
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    1

Story

  • 4.7 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    162
  • 4 Stars
    32
  • 3 Stars
    12
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • 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.)

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Everyone should read

I just finished and can only think to all the times I’ve sat in pity over my own selfishness. We need to be more thankful. What this man has been through is more than the human mind can comprehend. This story opened my eyes tremendously. I was really hoping for a happy ending.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • KG
  • 02-18-18

Good, but horrific.

This is a well written memoir filled with some history I hadn't before heard. I would recommend this for anyone, including kids 11 and up. The World needs to know what the N Koreans are subjected to.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Makes you appreciate...

This book makes you appreciate how very wealthy most of us are compared to the victims of North Korean regimes.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A tear-jerker from beginning to end.

The narrator, who I hadn't heard before, does an excellent job, and without accents to portray the characters he voices. This man's story is sad all around, forced to move to some country he doesn't know a thing about, and much more. For many, I see this book as laying the truth about North Korea at people's feet. Not a paradise at all, but a mad house.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Heartbreaking

Wow, what a amazing read. The absolute despair, emotionally and physically, is so very hard for us in the US to comprehend. To think that from being a small child to becoming an adult this individual and so many throughout the country never knew kindness, love, a full stomach nor the grace of God. It breaks my heart to think about this kind of suffering for anyone, much less so many throughout the world. This book should make us stop and look deep within us and see what's most important and to be thankful that we live where we do. Mr. Ishikawa will never recover completely from what he went through, yet he still kept trying. That is the human spirit. A heart breaking, emotional read, yet so very worth it. I highly recommend this book.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • AJ
  • 02-05-18

Eye opener for some about North Korea and life

I had to read this for a college class to review and revise. Taking the narration in and just simply listening to the events and situations this man has been involved in blew my mind.. I couldn’t even imagine. Of course we’ve heard about the constant problems North Korea has to offer for its population, but hearing it from someone that experienced it first hand is truly something else. I enjoyed this all the way through keeping me intrigued for what must have happened next in this man’s story. A great read that will stick with me.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Heartbreaking & Irresistible

Harrowing and realistic beyond belief. Ishikawa’s account resonates with the most humanistic part of your soul.

Was unsure what to expect with such a short book, but I was unable to stop listening until it had finished. Heartbreaking and eye-opening, even with all the rumors of what really goes on in an entire nation.

Must read.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A must read!!

I am so glad I read this story. It was so good that I couldn’t stop listening. It’s a must read for anyone to understand what’s going on in North Korea.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A moving story of life & loss in the DPRK

A well-written and thought-provoking story of life & the daily struggle to survive in North Korea. The story was well-delivered by the narrator, and made for a moving reception. I recommend this story highly, without reservation.

Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Amazon Customer petamd
  • 01-27-18

great book

great book powerful and heartbreaking well written and translated l listened for three nights in a row an enjoyable but difficult experience highly recommend this book

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Suswati
  • 01-17-18

An utterly bleak story of an invisible man

Masaji Ishikawa's story is truly soul-crushing, the level of trauma is beyond comprehension, therefore read it with caution.

Ishikawa describes his life under the North Korean regime as gruelling, horrifically terrifying, and there are some completely hopeless moments where you think why even bother anymore.

His journey begins in Japan, the child of a Japanese mother and Korean father, he was forced at a young age to move to North Korea under the pretence of "returning" to his motherland, though he never believed so. His father, an originally extremely violent man became pacified as he realised the perilous situation he bought his family into. But they soon face the truth and brutality of their circumstances.

The narrator defects at a much later stage in life, living around 30 years under the dictatorship, but leaving his family behind. He questions whether he made the right decision in the end as the consequences are revealed and the reader is left writhing in agony at his pain.

It is not an easy read, but it is important to understand the level of complexity and the reality of the situation. An absolute must read.