The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Orphan Master’s Son follows the life of Pak Jun Do, a young boy who lives in a North Korean orphanage with his father, the Orphan Master.
What ultimately transpires is a pretty gripping tale following the life of Jun Do as he grows up and lives life under the oppressive totalarian regime of Kim Jong Il. He ultimately joins to military and is assigned to tunnel duty — building tunnels for infiltration into South Korea. One day, he is visited by an officer and assigned a new task that will ultimately change his life, forever.
Some of my favorite chapters are written in an entertaining and light hearted manner — providing well timed, nice (almost comic) relief from some of the heavier parts of the book. They make you feel as if you’re listening to the latest daily propaganda dispatch from a nearby loudspeaker: “CITIZENS! Today is the Dear Leader’s birthday! Help us celebrate by DOUBLING your output quotas! Remember, it’s the only way to prevent a sneak attack by those imperialist aggressors!”
I don’t want to spoil much more of the story. There are twists and turns in the plot that will cause your jaw to drop. There are other parts that will potentially cause you to tear up. You really do feel as if someone peeled back a curtain, and you’re getting a genuine look inside North Korea.
This is a great book for any book club, as it has amazing potential for discussing fate versus free will, loyalty, love, fidelity, and courage. I often found myself laying awake at night, thinking about some of these central themes in the book.
My ultimate rating is 5 / 5 stars — I debated giving it 4 as I read along, but I think some of the deeper themes of the book, and the fact that it was so thought provoking, makes me belive it’s easily worth all 5 stars.
Forgive me for my hyperbole, but this was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read since The Kite Runner. I highly recommend it!
One Reply to “Book Review: The Orphan Master’s Son”
I also read and reviewed this book recently here: http://www.mysterytribune.com/2012/02/12/note-orphan-masters-son/
I would say what captured my attention was the elaborate details which brought the characters to life. Johnson did almost 6 years of research on the book including a trip to Korea to give the story a lot of authenticity.
This balance between a nice plot and reality was one of other interesting things to me.