A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

A River in Darkness

An Amazon Charts Most Read and Most Sold book.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...

Details A River in Darkness

TitleA River in Darkness
Release DateJan 1st, 2018
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, History

Reviews A River in Darkness

  • Lo
    The short version: This is easily the best firsthand narrative about life in North Korea that I've found, and it's a gripping, well-written story in its own right. If you haven't read anything like this, it will be VERY educational. But be aware that it doesn't have the happy ending the title implies, and prepare yourself accordingly. The long version: Some years ago, I realized that my view of North Korea was overly cartoonish. I didn't want to ...
  • Sara
    It's been a while since I read anything in one sitting, but this was utterly heartbreaking and compelling. Masaji Ishikawa and his family moved to North Korea during the great migration of Japanese/Korean immigrants to the communist state in the 1960s. Promises of a paradise and jobs for all duped many a family at the time, but the reality was far from what was expected. This is by far one of the best first hand accounts I've read of life in Nort...
  • Xavier (CharlesXplosion)
    A breathtaking real, unfiltered view of life in North Korea as a Japanese-Korean. Not all tales end happily, but Masaji Ishikawa's story exemplifies the resilience of the human spirit and importance of optimism even in the darkest of times.
  • Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)
    My first love in books is horror followed closely by psychological thrillers. When I read nonfiction/memoirs, I typically stay somewhat within the same genre - true crime, etc. As a half South Korean woman, I also typically avoid reading anything regarding North Korea. I always assumed that these types of books would be the only ones that would get me "triggered"... and by that I mean PISSED OFF! However, when Ashley at Amazon Publishing gave me ...
  • Marilyn Hitesman
    The horror of life in North KoreaBeyond comprehension. The atrocities are being silenced but must be made known. No one should endure what these people do.
  • Alaina Meserole
    I feel like I've been on a non-fiction kick lately and I've loved every minute of it.What first got my attention was the cover. I don't really know how else to explain it other than say it intrigued me so much that I didn't even think twice before I clicked it.Second, the title makes you think it will be a happy-ish book. Or that it will have a happy ending after all of the doom, sadness, and torture thrown upon you. Don't get your hopes up high ...
  • Janelle
    A RIVER OF DARKNESS by Masaji Ishikawa (translated by Risa Kobayashi and Martin Brown) Thank you so much to Amazon Publishing for sending me a free copy - all opinions are my own. “Someone once said, ‘If a crying baby could tear down the universe, it would.’ Thats how I felt that day. I wanted to demolish the whole universe, but the sad truth was, it had already come crashing down around my head.”My Review:This story is so personal—you ...
  • Staci
    Tragic. That one word sums up this entire memoir.I've read both Fiction and Non-Fiction books about North Korea which has provided me a pretty good background about what life is like there. What I didn't know until reading this memoir is nearly 80,000 Japanese moved to North Korea after WWII. They were told North Korea was a land of paradise. The author was born in Japan and moved to North Korea in 1960 when he was 13 years old. He lived there fo...
  • Beverly K
    Oh god, that was the most depressing book I've read in a long time. There is literally no light at the end of the tunnel for Mr. Ishikawa. On the one hand, it was a fascinating and disturbing tale of life in North Korea. On the other hand...it was a dark and dreary tale of what happens in North Korea.I think I need a break from reading for a bit now.
  •  *・Mariposa・*
    His story broke my heart
  • Alison Offerdal
    HeartbreakingA Japanese boy, moved to North Korea in the sixties with his family, struggles to survive the hardships and lies of the regime. Maked you appreciate what you have and the liberties so often taken for granted in Western society.
  • Susan Swiderski
    I'm glad this book isn't longer, because there's no way I was going to bed until I completed it last night. This is one of those books that punches you right in the gut. Having a nebulous idea that "things are tough" in North Korea is one thing, but reading someone's harrowing first-hand account of just HOW horrible it is takes that understanding to a whole new level. The appalling and dehumanizing conditions under which people have been living i...
  • Donna
    This was a depressing autobiography that reminded me of the repetitive inhumanity Solzhenitsyn describes in his accounts of living in the gulag system. But it lacks the prose that made me subject myself to Solzhenitsyn's second book. While I feel for him and hope that he thrives now that he has escaped from hell, I don't believe that I would read another book by Ishikawa. There was no closure, either. Spoiler alert, here: he left his starving fam...
  • Luke
    I feel conflicted about this book. Essentially, it's about a man (half-Korean, half-Japanese) whose Korean family was forced to move to Japan during the colonial empire. After the war, they faced racial discrimination and moved to the "Utopia" that was North Korea. Ishikawa tells the story of his experiences there before finally fleeing back to Japan in 1996. There are a few things that came to mind when I was reading this book. First is that muc...
  • Kate
    Well, this was a weird experience... in a way, a very unsatisfying book. But then, in another way, the frustrations were so unexpected and new for an autobiography, that it almost felt like it was doing something fresh and insightful with the genre... First of all, I can well believe the misery, the constant hunger, and the unremitting, demoralizing, unbearably petty stupidity of the North Korean regime. It all sounds horribly similar to what I'v...
  • Masielo
    El relato de este hombre que escapa de North Korea te hace cuestionarte muchísimas cosas sobre la vida. Muy ilustrativo y muy muy muy duro. Yo no podría sobrevivir todo lo que este hombre tuvo que sobrevivir. Me la pasé al borde del llanto casi todos los capítulos. Es infinitamente triste y de una manera extraña también hermoso.
  • Loredana M.
    This was by far the saddest book I have ever read. It's so important and so well-written, too. I just... words fail me when I try to describe what it was like. Highly recommended for absolutely everyone!!
  • Angela
    A harrowing look at North Korea, and the brutal conditions so many people are unable to escape. The mortality rates are staggering, yet believable when reading how little the people actually have.
  • Kasa Cotugno
    When I read Pachinko, the fictionalized account of a family's actual history, it opened my eyes to the lives of Korean nationals who found themselves in Japan and unable to return. Now here is a memoir of a man whose life has thus been defined, but whose situation was even more dire. Born in 1947 of a Korean father and Japanese mother, Masaji Ishikawa endured early life feeling an outcast. Believing the hype that Kim Jong-sung had created a "para...
  • B.A. Wilson
    This is the true story of Masaji Ishikawa, born in Japan to a Japanese mom, and an abusive Korean father, who was lured by false promises of a utopian society to move his family from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was only 13 years old. The family became part of the lowest social caste, and all of them suffered immensely under the brutal totalitarian regime. I've read some tough stories about people with very difficult lives, but the abject p...
  • Carlos Jaramillo
    Antes que nada quiero advertir: este libro puede ser demasiado fuerte para algunas personas.Imagina que tu vives en un hogar disfuncional. Un padre abusivo descendiente de coreanos que logra ser hipnotizado por la propaganda de un regimen autoritario y decide llevar a toda tu familia a vivir a la “tierra prometida de abundante riqueza y prosperidad”. Si, esta es la historia de como un niño japonés termina viviendo en corea del norte y como ...
  • Christopher Black
    Wow. This is easily the best memoir I have ever read. So good it really should be required reading in schools for any millennial that happens to think that communism over capitalism is a good idea. I knew the North Korean dictatorship was brutal, but seeing it from this man's perspective completely opened my eyes to just how horrific it truly is. The author's family went willingly to North Korea with the promise of free healthcare, free tuition, ...
  • Liz
    A devastating account of one man's life in and escape from North Korea. A Japanese citizen and resident until the age of thirteen, Ishikawa is the son of a Japanese mother and Korean father.  Discriminated against in Japan, his father decided to move the family to North Korea in 1960,  believing it to be a fabulous opportunity as promoted to the Korean-Japanese community. What ensued was a nightmare. Ishikawa's family was once again discriminat...
  • Stephen Douglas Rowland
    Here's a miserable read to entertain yourself with. Ishikawa's memoir is the most shockingly bitter, outraged, and hopeless account of life in North Korea that I've ever read (and I've read my share). The story of his life is beyond depressing -- it is absolutely suffocating. This book was published in Japan in 2000 under a pseudonym (for reasons you will understand if you can bear to read it), but is somewhat open-ended. In the 17 years between ...
  • Hannah
    "A River in Darkness" was my Kindle First pick for December, and it's hands down the best book I've read through that program. Ishikawa was born in Japan in 1947 to a Korean father and a Japanese mother. In 1960, lured by promises from the Japanese and North Korean governments of a better life in North Korea, Ishikawa's father was one of thousands of Koreans in Japan who moved his family to North Korea. Yet life was, if possible, worse in North K...
  • Matthew Sciarappa
    A must-read for anyone who *thinks* they know about North Korea. I had to keep reminding myself that this was non-fiction.This is a different kind of story, one where a path to freedom isn’t merely making it across a border.Simple, concise, and moving. Great for people who don’t read much non-fiction, but are looking to dip their toes in.
  • Kevin
    It doesn't matter how many articles and books I read that convince me that life in North Korea is a special hell - each one just convinces me it's more hell. This book is no exception. If I had to distill the review down to two words I'd say "relentlessly bleak" and even that might be letting it off a bit lightly.
  • Debbie Smith
    A River in Darkness is a simply told tale but all the more heartbreaking and harrowing for it. While we cannot really have any conception of the living hell those in North Korea experience this novel gives us an insight as to how grim life there really is.It's quite a disturbing and despairing read but it does show the human spirit's determination to survive even under the most unimaginable and hellish conditions. It sent me on a roller coaster o...
  • S.
    I felt rather queasy after I finished this book. It's very short, but the descriptions of human cruelty was infuriating and nauseating all at once. I don't understand how such evil can exist in the world, and it is a blessing that many of us never will experience it.I've seen some people contesting whether what the author has said is true or not. If even a tenth of what he said occurred is true, it is enough reason to condemn what has happened an...
  • Christine Wang
    Heartbreaking, hopeful, and eye-opening. I'm so glad I picked this out for my December Kindle First read. This is actually the first memoir I've ever read, but I've always been interested in North Korea, always the country shrouded in mystery, and what life is REALLY like there, aside from what they want you to see. And what better way than to read a firsthand account of someone who actually lived there?This was a quick read, but so very emotiona...