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.
I always like hearing about cultures and events from a personal perspective, and with North Korea being in the news more and more the past year I think it is important to understand the people whose lives are being manipulated in the global game of chess.
I have heard all the North Korean horror stories, the starvation, the camps, the brutal punishment for even the slightest sign of dissent. But, hearing these things in the voice of a man who lived through them for 36 years is particularly harrowing.
I couldn’t help but draw parallels between A River in Darkness and Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father. Both were raw and moving, and both filled me with a mixture of disgust and awe at what the human body and spirit can actually endure.
Someone once said, ‘If a crying baby could tear down the universe, it would.’ That’s 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.
I realized reading this that there is a lot of recent Japanese history that I am unfamiliar with. Japan has always fascinated me, but like all places, it has its moments of dark history. It’s important to both understand the failure and appreciate the successes of any group or nation. We can’t change an ugly past, but we can honor its victims by remembering them.
This book is a truly important read. Not only from a historical perspective but also as a guide for what is really important. There are places in the world where people cry with joy at a good meal, or the smallest act of kindness. It’s a hard read, but one that I recommend to everyone.
My Rating: 5/5