Told in simple prose, this is a shocking and devastating tale of a country’s utter contempt for its citizens.

A RIVER IN DARKNESS

ONE MAN'S ESCAPE FROM NORTH KOREA

A terrifying true story of life in North Korea.

Ishikawa was born in Japan in 1947 to a Korean father and Japanese mother. His father taught him that North Korea’s Kim Il sung was an “invincible general made of steel.” In 1958, the leader urged all Koreans to return home, proclaiming, “North Korea is a paradise on earth!” In 1960, Ishikawa and his family settled in the North Korean village of Dong Chong-ri as part of a mass repatriation campaign. Everyone had to join the Worker’s Party and pledge allegiance to Kim. The author learned in school that “thought was not free,” and no one could question the wisdom of Kim. He “played along” but knew he was now part of a “pseudo-religious cult.” Working on a farm as part of the Youth League, he learned that the sole cause of any failure was a total lack of respect for Kim and the party. Everyone was brainwashed. Despite being an excellent student, he was Japanese, the “lowest of the low,” and therefore condemned to the “very bottom of society.” As he notes, the farming process was “staggeringly crude and idiotic.” Food was taken away from them, and old people worked until they died. Poor workers went to concentration camps or were executed: “So many lives wasted.” After an arranged marriage, Ishikawa had a son in 1972. His mother died, and he carried her corpse on his back and buried her on a mountainside. His family suffered horribly, reduced to eating weeds and tree bark. It was even worse after Kim Jong il became leader. After 36 years and in utter despair, Ishikawa risked his life and, in darkness, crossed the Yalu River into China. He hoped to work in Japan and send money to his family, but by then, he was Korean, and the transition was extremely difficult.

Told in simple prose, this is a shocking and devastating tale of a country’s utter contempt for its citizens.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-3690-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Amazon Crossing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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