Review: A River in Darkness

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

Masaji Ishikawa


Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 01-Jan-2018
Date Started: 27-Aug-2018
Date Finished: 30-Aug-2018
Format: Audiobook
Pages:  5 hr 54 m
Genres: Nonfiction, memoir, North Korea
ISBN: 9781101904039
Source: Audible


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. ”



This is one of those stories that really has the reader appreciating their circumstances, no matter how bad things may seem. While a short novel, at only about 6 hours as an audiobook, this book packed a lot of emotion and strife in it. The desolate circumstances Ishikawa survived and still bears made for an awful life, but an intriguing story. I looked forward to work the next day, just because I knew I would be listening to this audiobook while working.

With North Korea constantly in the news now, I felt it was time to understand more about the country and how its citizen’s survive. And they do just that, survive. There is little joy, little to celebrate, survival is essential.

I completely recommend this novel, particularly the audiobook, it was a well narrated, heartbreaking tale.

About the Author

“Born in 1947 in Kawasaki, Japan, Masaji Ishikawa moved with his parents and three sisters to North Korea in 1960 at the age of thirteen, where he lived until his escape in 1996. He currently resides in Japan.”



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