Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Orphan Master's Son

 The Orphan Master's Son
by Adam Johnson

Genre:  Fiction
Pages:  480
Published:  8/7/12 by Random House
Format:  book

 My rating:
5 out of 5 stars

I finished this book several weeks ago, and it has taken me several weeks to sit down and process my thoughts into a coherent review!

Pak Jun Do, who is an orphan master's son, is a citizen of North Korea.  While he lives in a country that brainwashes its people into believing they are citizens of the greatest democratic nation in the world, Jun Do sees past the propoganda and recognizes that he and his fellow citizens are slaves to their leader Kim Jung Il.  As Jun Do gains attention from Kim Jung Il, he begins a dangerous attempt to move into the inner circle of North Korea's government and save the woman that he loves.

Like most people, I knew very little about North Korea before reading this novel.  I recognize that this is a fictional story, but it does seem to be a story that is based on research and some facts, along with the author's imagination.  I found it fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.  And it makes me want to read and learn more about North Korea and what life is like for people in that country.  I think this novel is worth reading just because it opened my eyes to a part of the world that I had never before considered.

But it is also worth reading because it is just a great novel!  I loved the tone of the novel.  While it is about some horrible, horrible real life conditions, there is an undertone of satire and dark humor to Johnson's writing.  And it worked really well in this novel.  The things that are happening in North Korea are just absurd and often appear silly when read from an American perspective.  It is almost laughable.  Except it's not, because it is real.

So while this does read like political satire, it is also a thriller and even a little bit of a love story.  I read in an interview with Adam Johnson that he wanted to portray what life is like for the regular every day person in North Korea.  What is it like to be a parent, a spouse, a friend in a country that controls your every movement?  Through Jun Do's journey, I felt like we got a picture of all those things. 

I would highly recommend this novel. I give it a solid five stars!

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