Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2013
An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother - a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang - and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.
Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”
Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.
From the Hardcover edition.
Holy cow. This will be required reading in history classes around the world. So much to sink your teeth in. Beautiful but tragic. I enjoyed every minute.
I liked the book, but I didn't feel that enough explanation was given, I needed more background. As I got towards the end of the book it made more sense but the author jumped from scene to scene it was very confusing.
While the beginning of the book could represent a challenge for anyone given the pace of the story, but once you go through the first chapters you will start to understand the main character and his circumstance.
The story is Dantesque from start to finish, with the main character following a path that brings him from one hell to another, each providing him knowledge to survive the next one, until in a final realization he is in the last ring, where the a reality worthy of Kafka sets the final confrontation.
I liked the book. It is well written and the characters are well developed.
While this book is well written, the story is unremittingly grim. The characters, except for the female love interest are as finally drawn as ivory cameos. However, the story itself is pedestrian and uninspired. I could guess the ending half way through the book.
I forced myself to finish the book; I guess the fact that it won a Pulitzer in 2013 is what made me want to finish it. I purchased it because it was compared favorably to Donna Tartts The Goldfinch. Both writers are excellent in fleshing out their characters. There the similarity ends. The Goldfinch had an immersive plot and a sense of forward movement and well, Joi de vrie that The Orphan Master Son lacked.
The story itself was one long didactic screed against the evil North Korean regimine. If you really want to learn about this regimine, I would suggest a good nonfiction book. If you want an enjoyable an immersive novel, look elsewhere.
My first reply, kept my attention start to finish.
Be Happy for what you Have and Where you Live.
The beginning of the book is a little slow, but still very interesting as we follow a young man from an orphanage through early adulthood. Then it picks up, and is an interesting, exciting read. The end is a little drawn out - the author could have gotten to the ending a little quicker, but all in all a very good book.
I did some research on the author and on North Korea after I read Orphan Master's Son, and by all accounts it appears that the author does a good job of representing life in North Korea. This is a unique book - a very interesting and unusual plot, good characters, good writing, and good narration.
This novel blew my mind! From the beginning to the end I hung on every word. The story was dynamic, exciting, disturbing, and heartbreaking. I really loved this book- I wish it was longer!
Outstanding story and performance. The story was complex and engaging. The performance was amazing.
A must read. I appreciate the effort Adam Johnson made to make the details factual, but utilize the novel form to bring it all to life.
This is my second time listening to this book. It's very well written and very well perform I enjoyed it the first time and will continue to enjoy it for many more years to come. The only thing I have to say on a sad note is there are no other books by this author.