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

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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: AmazonCrossing

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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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