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Editorial Reviews

On April 9, 1942, more than 76,000 American and Filipino soldiers on the island of Batan surrendered to the Japanese, who set them walking 66 miles to prison camp, a notorious walk that came to be known as "The Bataan Death March". Their surrender meant defeat in the first major land battle for America in World War II. Tears in the Darkness, the result of 10 years' research and interviews, weaves a strikingly vivid tapestry of voices from all sides to bring this crucial episode to life. Its central narrative traces new Army Air Corp recruit Ben Steele from his cowboy upbringing in Montana to his shattering experience as a prisoner of war. From this quintessential American tale, other individual stories — including those of Filipinos and the Japanese — hang together, fleshing out the narrative and providing a remarkably rounded account. This balance is an important part of the book; although there are many detailed descriptions of the inhuman acts committed against prisoners, the authors treat the Japanese with sympathy and respect.

Michael Pritchard's delivery encompasses the campfire setting of Steele's Montana youth equally as well as the General Masaharu Homma's addresses to his Japanese troops, or the harrowing descriptions of the execution of surrendered captives. Pritchard's audiobook credits include titles by Zane Grey, Tom Clancy, and numerous works on American history, and it's not hard to see why: his dust-dry voice has a no-nonsense authority, an unforced sturdiness that honors the book's military milieu without ever being starchy or dull.

Tears in the Darkness stands apart from many military histories through the pungency of its writing: the steaming jungle, agonising thirsts, and overwhelming desperation are conveyed with a color that is more common to novels than history texts. However, the main achievement of the book is the cohesion of its myriad fragments: we get an appraisal of US military strategy in the Southwest Pacific, Filipino children running through Japanese soldiers' legs to get banana-leaves and handfuls of rice to their starving fathers, one survivor's agonisingly slow crawl to safety from under the corpses of executed captives. And throughout, the book's hold never flags, due as much to Pritchard's powerful yet restrained narration as to the sense of unflinching truth. —Dafydd Phillips

Publisher's Summary

For the first four months of 1942, U.S., Filipino, and Japanese soldiers fought what was America's first major land battle of World War II, the battle for the tiny Philippine peninsula of Bataan. It ended with the surrender of 76,000 Filipinos and Americans, the single largest defeat in American military history. The defeat, though, was only the beginning, as Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman make dramatically clear in this powerfully original book.

From then until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the prisoners of war suffered an ordeal of unparalleled cruelty and savagery: 41 months of captivity, starvation rations, dehydration, hard labor, deadly disease, and torture---far from the machinations of General Douglas MacArthur. The Normans bring to the story remarkable feats of reportage and literary empathy.

Their protagonist, Ben Steele, is a figure out of Hemingway: a young cowboy turned sketch artist from Montana who joined the army to see the world. Juxtaposed against Steele's story and the sobering tale of the Death March and its aftermath is the story of a number of Japanese soldiers. The result is an altogether new and original World War II book: it exposes the myths of military heroism as shallow and inadequate; and it makes clear, with great literary and human power, that war causes suffering for people on all sides.

©2009 Michael and Elizabeth Norman; (P)2009 Tantor

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Incredible suffering, strength, and endurance.

If you could sum up Tears in the Darkness in three words, what would they be?

"Oh, Dear God"

What other book might you compare Tears in the Darkness to and why?

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Both are incredible stories of survival and the will to live in the harshest realities known to mankind.

What does Michael Prichard bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

As I have not read the book I cannot really say, but I do enjoy Mr.Prichard's style of narration. I tend to find it relaxing, or maybe familiar, like the voice of an old friend.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes, very much. Near the end when the Doctor found out he had survived the Bataan Death March. I found that very emotional.

Any additional comments?

A good listen. Something to look back on when you think your having a bad day.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Much more than I expected

When I first considered purchasing this audiobook I was hesitant. Anyone slightly familiar with the Bataan Death March knows that it's not exactly a pick me up story. But after reading the reviews I gave it a shot, and I don't regret it one bit. Yes, there are moments in the book that can be graphic and unpleasant, however, the authors do a superb job of transitioning into a positive subject directly afterwards. Which I found helped me b/c no one wants to hear so much of how people suffered to the point where you can't bear to read the book anymore. The authors blend each piece of the story nicely and write descriptions that are detailed, but they withhold it to the point that they know when the reader is saying "Ok, I get it, they suffered." If you liked "Unbroken", then you'll also enjoy this book as well. The narrator does an excellent job and I can say that now I'm a fan of his. Overall: Well written, easy to understand, not too gory, excellent narration, and definitely worth a read.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • PJ
  • 09-17-12

Powerful, a must for anyone interested in WWII

Highly recommend this for it's excellent story-telling and vivid accounting of the Bataan Death March and after-effects. I appreciated the authors weaving in flashbacks to "previous life" as it gave a break from the accounting and provided a stark contrast to the POW experience. I thought the book was well-performed (although we did speed it up just a little). My husband and I read, watch and listen to many books and documentaries about WWII and think this one is just terrific. It is horrifying, yet inspiring as you listen to the stories of the triumph of humans and the human spirit in the face of an horrific experience.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • JACKSONVILLE, FL, United States
  • 09-09-12

See History From Both Sides

I really enjoyed how this book blended stories from both an American and Japanese perspective together to create more of a unified whole of the story. The book includes such vivid detail that it is hard not to feel like you can actually hear the screams, feel the wounds, and smell the smells. This is not a book for those that have weak stomachs. However, for anyone who thinks that war is glorious or a great adventure this book should be required reading. One thing that might be distressing to some is that the book paints a negative picture of Douglas MacArthur as both a coward and as a bad military commander.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Marvin
  • Bonnyville, AB, Canada
  • 08-26-12

Extremely moving!

Well told and excellent detail. Almost too much at times! I was stunned at the brutality of this story and felt so bad for the prisoners.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Catherine
  • MADERA, CA, United States
  • 05-18-12

Very good listen

Where does Tears in the Darkness rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This was a great listen, well researched and descriptive.

What other book might you compare Tears in the Darkness to and why?

Unbroken. Also well researched and descriptive.

What about Michael Prichard’s performance did you like?

Beautifully narrated. I listened to this book about a year ago but could not remember if I had read it or listened to the audiobook. He was that perfect.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

This whole story was moving. The suffering of the Americans and Filipinos was just unimaginable.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • United States
  • 10-20-11

Every American should read this book

This book show that not all cultures have the same values as Americans. You can not judge other cultures by the same standards as we judge ourselves.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Camanche, IA, United States
  • 11-14-09

Tears in the Darkness

Very informative! Now I know why no American POW that was on the Death march ever owned a Japanise car.

2 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Amanda
  • Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  • 10-19-09

If you are a woman, you will hate this

I'm sorry but this was horrible... very long and drawn out on wayyy too many details. The speaker was horrible and i was very disappointed. Ladies, its more of a male book with details of one death after another.. chose another book!!!

0 of 19 people found this review helpful