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Deep River

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,656 ratings  ·  198 reviews
In this moving novel, a group of Japanese tourists, each of whom is wrestling with his or her own demons, travels to the River Ganges on a pilgrimage of grace.
Paperback, 216 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by New Directions Publishing Corporation (first published June 1993)
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,656 ratings  ·  198 reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Reading Deep River is like having a sugar rush. It is too much sweet. Right after the book, I just thought of having an edgy book. Maybe one that is dark and sad. I thought I’d like to neutralize the taste and get rid of the sweetness. Maybe a dark and strong coffee or some salty corn chips. Maybe just brush my teeth and I would be fine again.

Had I read this in high school when I was still a naïve young man, I would have rated this with 5 stars outright. It talks about pantheism or a belief that
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deep River is a rich story which jumps around in time, in place, in ideas. So off we go, to Japan, Washington DC, France, Manchuria, Burma and India. We catch glimpses of the gods Chamunda and Kali, the Burma Highway of Death, yakiimo, reincarnation, a Ginko tree, a stray dog, Buddhist holy spots such as Lumbini Kapilavastu, Buddh-Gaya and Sarnath, the caste system called varna jati, the Andes Survivors, Shirley Maclaine, Indira Gandhi - and - sins of the flesh. Pierrot appears as a man, and as ...more
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Sawyer on Lost loved it
Recommended to Mariel by: I liked Silence
Do you know that scene in Billy Madison when (this is a major spoiler if you haven't seen Billy Madison and still mean to) Bradley Whitford's character is asked to explain the difference between ethics and morals? And he whips out a gun instead? (It's on youtube.Here it is anyway. It must be wrong to post links to Adam Sandler movies. What can I say? I'm a heathen.) Deep River is apparently beloved by ethics students all over goodreads and amazon. I guess it is loved in Japan too, if ejaculatory ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Second reading. Isobe is a middle-aged, Japanese businessman whose wife is dying of cancer. Before she dies she comes out of a coma long enough to whisper to her husband: ‘I know for sure...I’ll be reborn somewhere in this world. Look for me...find me...promise... promise!’ He is stricken by her loss. Whereas he hardly ever thought about her during her life, now he thinks about her all the time. He has never loved her as he does in death.

Ms. Naruse is a young hospital volunteer who sometimes sit
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow, the disparate spirits do not rest! But they do manage to come together, and what they find there, at the fated nucleus, fountainhead, existential monolith is exactly what moves the reader towards the epic end. The Ganges has never before been characterized in such a raw, personified way...

Asians in the Holy Lands. Japanese tourists in India...

There is something about the P.O.V. of Japanese tourists... mystical figures all their own. I will definitely abstain from saying anything about Japan
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommended to David by: William2
Shelves: big-red-circle
Three words for Otsu: Church of England. You can believe whatever the fuck you like and they'll let you be a bishop. Don't some of them not even believe in the literal truth of any of the Bible?

Two words for all of the other characters: Let's communicate!

Endo's created a host of emotionally inarticulate characters that are incapable of open and frank relationships, taken us through all of their problems and then left us grasping at spiritual solutions.

It's very ethnocentric, I know, but I would
Feb 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A novel about different streams towards God and how there is a deep river that runs deep enough to handle all the craziness that goes on down here. I learned some really beautiful things about some other religions that I didn't know before I read this book. One of the most beautiful things that stuck with me is the symbolism of The Ganges river in India. People bring death there (they sprinkle loved ones ashes in there), but the also come to this river for ritual cleasings. It takes it all. Noth ...more
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, europe, 1001
For a short book, Deep River covers a lot. It’s interesting to be gazing through a window at the lives of these Japanese men and women as they themselves gaze through a window at Europeans (mostly French) and Indians. The main themes of the book are religion and grief - characters contemplate rebirth, Japanese Buddhism, the differences between Japanese Christianity and European Christianity, Hinduism and a few personal constructions, like the man who thinks of God as being in communion with natu ...more
David Rush
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

I wonder at the faith and Christianity of Shusaku Endo a thoughtful, reflectfull Japanese Christian. Did he feel as at odds with his faith and heritage as the central character, Otso, of Deep Rivet?Did he feel himself as outcast as Otsu who identified with the lowest caste of Ind
There is death. Yet, there is also life. There are long emotionally dead passages. Yet, there are also moments so charged with feeling they consume all in their path, carry them along for a bit and then leave behind ones willing to do anything to catch up. You have the search for reincarnated love ones, the search for emotional fulfillment, the search to reconcile death with life, the search for atonement, each person ever searching for something omnipresent in its never clearly defined state. A ...more
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: red-queen
it's been reported in literary papers or sections that an unofficial "twenty-year rule" applies to the Nobel Prize in Literature-- that is, every twenty years or so (unless it was every twenty-five years, and I'm misremembering), the Nobel Literature Prize committee "has" to award the prize to a Japanese writer. such would not be unvelieable. if I remember the WP entry on the NPL correctly, the first twenty years of the prize were entirely Sweden or Sweden-Norway specific, until the realization ...more
Emilia P
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lost, real-books
Dang, yo.
Shusaku Endo wrote this book I read called SILENCE. It's about Catholic missionaries to Japan in like the 1600s and it's kinda boring and pretty one-note but also well written and about an important culture clash. Shusaku Endo, a Japanese Catholic, is an intriguing character himself, and so one is impelled to read more of his work. Especially since it's featured in Season 6 of Lost. And with good reason.

Silence was written in the 60s and Deep River was written in the 90s. The openness a
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
A group of Japanese tourists travel to India to visit historic sites from the life of the Buddha, without realizing that there are few modern Buddhists there. They wind up in Varanasi, by the side of the sacred, polluted Ganges, where people go to die. The group includes Isobe, who is looking for his reincarnated wife, who he ignored when she was alive and Mitsuko, who has found emptiness in a series of personae: hedonistic student, wife, volunteer at a hospital. Least affecting is Numada, a aut ...more
Kyle Mcdonald
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
a total waste of time. shallow characters, boring plot, boring dialog, no message. as a japanese christian i thought endo might have an interesting perspective on religious life but this book culminates in some watery relativist bullshit.

the main female character, mitsuko, is an insufferable bitch who seems to not change at all through the course of the story. in fact, none of the characters change in any meaningful way. i don't know how i kept turning pages.

there were a couple interesting bac
A very interesting study in faith as seen through the eyes of a group of Japanese tourists to India as they recall pivotal moments of their lives, experiences, and their personal struggles as they try to reconnect with past acquaintances, past loves, and reconcile past traumas through the lens of different faiths and depths of faith as they visit the intersection of Asian faith, with Buddhism, Catholicism, and Hinduism.
Curtis R
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really a remarkable book; my review will NOT do it justice.

This sat on my shelf for awhile because I was intimidated by the topic. Shusaku Endo is one of my favorite authors, but his tone and themes typically take a much more melancholy look at life than many other authors. Perhaps you've seen the movie Silence, directed by the great Martin Scosese, with Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, and Adam Driver. This is based on a book by the same author, and its friggin sweet as well.

Endo is a Japanese Ca
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern
Unreliable narrator is a term many people are probably familiar with from literature class. It doesn't quite cover what is happening in this novel though, as it is written in third person. So the narrator is giving you, the reader, a (fairly) accurate view of the thoughts and actions of the characters (or at least an accurate view of the thoughts and the actions that each character finds to be important), but the characters in the story are, to varying degrees, rather unreliable.

They have incorr
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this novel so much more powerful that Silence, which was about a group of Portuguese missionaries who were tortured in Seventeenth Century Japan. Endo, a practising Catholic, returns to the theme of forcing a Christian to deny one's faith, an idea which seems quaintly anachronistic now, but which he must feel strongly about to reintroduce it again. This time he tracks a group of Japanese on a pilgrimage to Buddhist Holy Sites in India. One of them had ignored his wife until her dying ple ...more
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be a powerful book. The four main characters each have intriguing back stories and travel to India searching for freedom from grief and emptiness. Isobe, in a typical Japanese marriage of "usefulness," loses his wife and discovers a need to find her. Alientated Numada recovers from near death with the help of a mynah bird and wants to repay his debt. Kiguchi looks to the land of Buddha to heal his trauma from WWII and the death of the friend who saved his life during the war but ...more
Wen Cof
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Shusaku Endo’s book Deep River is about a journey to the river Ganges with a collection of tourists immersed in their own private spiritual struggles. Each character presents a face of spirituality as a whole. The characters face uncomfortable spiritual questions that aren’t always neatly answered. I loved the book because it brings together ideas of Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Not only are the questions uncomfortable, so are the characters. The young woman Mitsuko, is so cruel, I almos
Another book I started with high hopes which failed to live up to my expectations. Endo's characters all end up seeming contrived and sometimes ridiculous in their actions and dialogue as the stories progress and they make their pilgrimages to the Hindu and Buddhist holy sites along the Ganges. I was hoping for some insight into Christianity as it is viewed and experienced in Japan and the Orient but was instead treated to an individual's ecumenistic dreams. And I think maybe he sets up some of ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A melancholic and beautiful book. Amidst a backdrop of the heaviness of the human experience, Shusaku Endo remains delicate. His message is gentle and compassionate; not at all like the heavy-handedness of most spiritual literature. In this book, a random group of heavy-souled Japanese tourists come to India and discover facets of their spiritual journeys. This book is about grief. It is about shame. It is about pantheism. It is about seeing Jesus from western and non-western perspectives. It is ...more
Having written Silence, it's hard to come back and write something just as stunning, but Deep River isn't far off. It's hard to pin down -- Shusaku Endo is writing heavily in the vein of forgotten French Catholic writers, like those who get name-checked in the story, Francois Mauriac and Julien Green.

And indeed, Endo got a lot of comparisons to writers like that, as well as Graham Greene, but that's missing a large part of the picture. For example, a lot of the coincidences and reunion moments t
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, asian-lit
Shūsaku Endō is that rarity: a Japanese Catholic -- but with a difference. In Deep River, he looks at the members of a Japanese tour group that visits North India. The beginning of the book takes most of the characters in turn, showing how there is some lack in their lives that they hope to remedy by the side of the Ganges.

In the end, the various members of the group take baby steps. Only Ohtsu, a renegade Catholic priest that one of the group knew in Japan, has found himself. Dressed in a dhoti
Jan 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
*Zero stars* Deep River was quite possibly the worst book I have ever read in my life. To make it worse it was assigned in my English class so I couldn't just return it to the library like I've done with other bad books. The characters were bland and the plot was non-existent. People tell me this book is about spiritual journeys but I saw no journey. Confrontation maybe, but there was no journey. There was no conclusion to the book. If the author had died mid sentence and so the editors had to f ...more
Jordan Tomeš
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It would be easy to criticize Endo for pushing his religious views on the reader too much in this book. I personally choose to be thankful for this. In terms of function, it has been a long time since a book touched me and affected me so deeply (maybe the cans of IPA's I drank while reading this helped, too).

I loved the backstories of all the characters. Endo's writing style is rich, vivid, and powerful. It really made all the characters stand out for me. Yes, the characters sometimes did somet
Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
This book reminds me of the Canterbury Tales (Chaucer), and of The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder. Like those books, Deep River is a collection of character sketches tied together by a situation, in this case a group of Japanese tourists on a tour of India. The author explores themes of death and rebirth, faith and religions(especially Christianity and Buddhism), and suffering in its various forms.
Gloria Chen
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really liked Deep River. On the surface, it's just a story about a Japanese tourist group. There is a tour guide, schedule and some annoying passengers. But the tour group is also in India, and is there during the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The different stories of the main protagonists were all interesting (and sad) to me, and the more I thought about them the more impressed I was by their hidden similarities. Would definitely read again!
Sue Dix
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book tells the stories and backstories of a group of Japanese tourists in India and centers around the river Ganges and the varying views of religion by the tourists and the peoples of India. It is an intriguing and enfolding novel with vivid depictions of disease, war, poverty, and the ways in which the characters are affected by what they see and experience.
Brian Wilcox
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Favorite novel I've read. Profound.
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Reading 1001: Deep River by Shūsaku Endō 6 14 Jan 29, 2018 01:34PM  
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Shusaku Endo (遠藤 周作), born in Tokyo in 1923, was raised by his mother and an aunt in Kobe where he converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of eleven. At Tokyo's Keio University he majored in French literature, graduating BA in 1949, before furthering his studies in French Catholic literature at the University of Lyon in France between 1950 and 1953. A major theme running through his books, which ...more
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“At the core of her senseless actions, she vaguely perceived that she yearned for something. A something that would provide her with a sure sense of fulfillment. But she could not fathom what that something might be.” 21 likes
“The smell of death was thick in the city of Vārāṇasī. And in Tokyo as well. And yet the birds blissfully sang their songs.” 11 likes
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