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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

REVIEW: A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa @amazonpub #MasajiIshikawa

A River in Darkness:
One Man's Escape from North Korea
by Masaji Ishikawa

Thank you so much to AmazonCrossing / Amazon Publishing for this copy. 🖤

Publisher:  AmazonCrossing
Publish Date:  January 1, 2018
Pages: 172
Genres:  Memoir, Nonfiction

Goodreads Synopsis

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.

My Review:

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 this book, I couldn't NOT read it.. and I'm SO happy she sold me on this.  Turns out, it may as well be a horror book... unfortunately.  Phew - I'm still trying to wrap my feelings around this one.

Masaji takes us on his journey.  That's thirty-six (36) years of him living in North Korea with his family.  Decades of trying not to starve to death.  Decades of trying not to get shot, beaten up or turned away simply for being 1/2 Japanese - something that is (obviously) out of his control.  Decades of wondering how the government did NOTHING that it promised them.  Becoming walking skeletons and deciding that dying trying to escape was better than the alternative - because clearly dying was going to happen anyways.  Watching family members, children and seniors alike, dying all around you.  Uff.  At 178 pages, Masaji manages to put you right in there with him.  At one point he even apologies to the reader .. but then saying it was necessary to say to show exactly how bad they had it.

My heart hurts for him... for his family... for all the Koreans and Japanese living there in squalor as death surrounds them at every turn.  An extremely emotional read but one that should be read.  At the very least, let his story get out there.  He didn't go through all of that and manage to escape just to not be heard.

An emotional full 5 stars! ★★★★★

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