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Extended Audio Sample Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, by Michael Norman, Elizabeth M. Norman Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (849 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Michael Norman, Elizabeth M. Norman Narrator: Michael Prichard Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In the tradition of All Quiet on the Western Front and Hiroshima, this major work about World War II exposes the myths of military heroism as shallow and inadequate and makes clear that war causes suffering for people on all sides.

For the first four months of 1942, American, Filipino, and Japanese soldiers fought what was America’s first major land battle of World War II, the battle for the tiny Philippine peninsula of Bataan. It ended with the surrender of 76,000 Filipinos and Americans, the single largest defeat in American military history.

The defeat, though, was only the beginning, as Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman make dramatically clear in this powerfully original book. From then until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the prisoners of war suffered an ordeal of unparalleled cruelty and savagery: forty-one months of captivity, starvation rations, dehydration, hard labor, deadly disease, and torture—far from the machinations of General Douglas MacArthur.

The Normans bring to the story remarkable feats of reportage and literary empathy. Their protagonist, Ben Steele, is a figure out of Hemingway: a young cowboy turned sketch artist from Montana who joined the army to see the world. Juxtaposed against Steele’s story and the sobering tale of the Death March and its aftermath is the story of a number of Japanese soldiers.

The result is an altogether new and original World War II book: it exposes the myths of military heroism as shallow and inadequate and it makes clear, with great literary and human power, that war causes suffering for people on all sides.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A lean, moving account…many books have described the atrocities. Prisoners were starved, beaten, and killed. This is different…Powerful.”

    USA Today

  • “Stirring and humane…Tears in the Darkness is authoritative history. Ten years in the making, it is based on hundreds of interviews with American, Filipino, and Japanese combatants. But it is also a narrative achievement. The book seamlessly blends a wide-angle view with the stories of many individual participants. And at this book’s beating emotional heart is the tale of just one American soldier, a young cowboy and aspiring artist out of Montana named Ben Steele.”

    New York Times

  • “Deeply researched and finely documented, Tears in the Darkness is written brilliantly in lucid prose…A model of excellence in historical bookmaking…I couldn’t put it down.”

    Washington Times

  • “An extremely detailed and thoroughly chilling treatment that, given the passage of time and thinning of ranks, could serve as popular history’s final say on the subject.”

    Associated Press

  • “Balanced, beautifully written…Many books have examined World War II in the Philippines, but none of them pack the punch of or are as beautifully written as this compelling volume…A superb book about the unspeakable tragedy of war and the triumph of the human spirit.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Unlike historians who have spotlighted the titans—MacArthur and Wainwright, Yamashita and Homma—who matched strategies in the Philippines in 1942, the Normans focus on the ordinary soldiers who bore the brunt of the wartime savagery. …[including] bitter experiences of very human and often guilt-wracked Japanese…An indispensable addition to every World War II collection.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Narrator Michael Prichard has a way of sounding authentic with foreign languages simply by sounding so sure of himself. He does this with the abundant Japanese names and places herein without trying to imitate a native speaker or create characters. Prichard’s serious presence fades into the background as the authors’ tales of brutality, disease, starvation, and death take the spotlight. Winner of a 2010 Audie Award.”


  • “A gripping narrative…The authors are unsparing but sympathetic in telling the Japanese side of the story; indeed, they are much harder on the complacent, arrogant American commander Douglas MacArthur than on his Japanese counterpart. There’s sorrow but not much pity in this story; as all human aspiration shrivels to a primal obsession with food and water, flashes of compassion and artistic remembrance only occasionally light the gloom.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “The authors conducted 400 interviews with survivors and have put together an exhaustive narrative. They focus chiefly on Ben Steele, who survived the Philippine battles, the march, and forty-one months in the slave labor camps. As much as a military history, this is the biography of a Montana cowboy transformed by great events.”

    Library Journal

  • “Assiduous account of the Japanese conquest of the Philippines in World War II and…‘the single largest defeat in American military history’…Drawing on the memories of participants on both sides, the Normans provide a careful history of a ghastly episode that still reverberates. Highly recommended for students of the Pacific War.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of the 2010 Audie Award for Best History Narration
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Nate | 2/19/2014

    " I have always been interested in WWII. This was a particularly interesting story as I am also interested in the Japan front of the war given my experience in Japan with the people and language. The Batan death march is one of the most horrific stories of the war. This not only goes into the stories of the American soldiers, but also of the Japanese which is a really interesting perspective. I would highly recommend reading this book. It's not easy to hear about all the great suffering that these men went through, but it's well written and it's important to not forget these men who suffered so much. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Barb | 2/10/2014

    " This is one of the best books I have ever read. Pretty depressing in parts, especially when it dawns on me yet again that this really took place and this is the real deal. Opened my eyes a lot to what happened during the war. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Ginny | 2/9/2014

    " I listened to this on audio book and, also, have the print version. I referred to certain sections while listening to the book. Since I have lived in the Philippines and I have Filipino relatives, this book really pulled at my heart and caused great disgust that people can treat people in such a horrible manner. Naturally, I have read other accounts of the Bataan Death March. This was very interesting because it covered from Dec. 7, 1941 through the end of the war and the trials. I'm sure that some portions are filled in, but this book appears to be very much a novel based on fact. I recommend it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Margaret Everett | 1/28/2014

    " I had never know how cruel the Japanese were in World War II. This is not fiction and I think anyone would be glad they read it. "

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About the Author
Author Michael Norman

Michael Norman, a native of Seattle, spent his adult life in Colorado and Utah. He is a former police officer, state parole board member, and professor of criminal justice at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. His first novel, The Commission, was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2007. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife Diane, and their pit bulls, Eddie and Joyce.