OMG, fellow bloggers, when was the last time you saw a Monday Book Review? A long time now. I may not keep to the Monday schedule yet, but I’ll try keeping my reviews regular.  I have a long list of books I’ve read in the past year that I haven’t been able to review, so I’m mixing them up with books that I’m reading and are on my TBR. Today I’ll be reviewing A River in Darkness-One Man’s Escape from North Korea.


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

AUTHOR: Masaji Ishikawa

GENRE: Memoir

RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


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


In a word, heartbreaking. Mr. Ishikawa takes us through his life in North Korea over a thirty some odd year period, from his move from Japan to North Korea with his abusive father and mother to his final escape. After being placed in the lowest social caste, the family found employment nearly impossible. It was worse for his mother because of her Japanese heritage.

From his failed marriage to his children, it felt like the blows kept hitting me in the chest. We think we have a good understanding of the strife in North Korea but we aren’t even close. Mr. Ishikawa explains how many times his family was near starvation and the treatment they received from military personnel.

After discussing his escape plans with his family, he promised to get them out. The most heart-pounding scenes in the book were when he actually made his escape. I won’t give away any spoilers but I’ll admit that I nearly cried at the end.

I loved the writing style and couldn’t put the book down.  It was translated from its original Japanese which I thought would be a problem, but it wasn’t. You may not want to read this if you’re overly sensitive (guilty) but I highly recommend this book.

RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥