“I'm not sorry I read this ambitious novel, but I can't say I enjoyed it. Brutality aside (which is a necessary element in portraying North Korea), I didn't especially care for the narrative technique, or "buy into" one of the major plot lines.”Sherry A wrote this review yesterday. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Could not get into this book. Read 1/4 of it and quit. ”Nonna wrote this review yesterday. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Book club read”Victoria T wrote this review 11 days ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Wonderful main character--North Korea now exists more fully for me. Descriptions, whether of the sea, the sky, a prison camp, cabbage soup, torture, Texas, or cemetery--are full and vivid for me.”Kathy Fester wrote this review 13 days ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Fascinating and horrifying glimpse into life in N. Korea. I just couldn't finish it; the story is too depressing. ”Laurie C wrote this review 2 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An incredible book. It gets confusing in part 2 but by the time I got to the end of it and had put the puzzle pieces together, i wanted to read it all over again. So incredibly well written.
Jun Do is The Orphan Master’s Son, a North Korean citizen with a rough past who is working as a government-sanctioned kidnapper when we first meet him. He is hardly a sympathetic character, but sympathy is not author Johnson’s aim. In a totalitarian nation of random violence and bewildering caprice—a poor, gray place that nonetheless refers to itself as “the most glorious nation on earth”—an unnatural tension exists between a citizen’s national identity and his private life. Through Jun Do’s story we realize that beneath the weight of oppression and lies beats a heart not much different from our own—one that thirsts for love, acceptance, and hope—and that realization is at the heart of this shockingly believable, immersive, and thrilling novel. ”
“5/30-6/5, beautifully written, sad, slightly surreal, found at a little free library.”Ann B wrote this review 13 days ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Author Adam Johnson notes in a reader's guide interview that "literature is a fiction that tells a deeper truth" and that "North Korea . . . is a trauma narrative on a national scale" (p.453f). Both these quotes serve as a redolent description of this captivating, Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The protagonist, Jun Do, is a North Korean orphan who becomes a national hero in the way of kidnapping and tracking for survival. In the process, Jun Do develops sensitivity to the plight of his fellow countrymen who are also orphans to a brutal regime, which has stolen both family and truth from its people. In one sense, this is a challenging novel to read because of the portrayal of treachery and brutality (gleaned from actual testimonies of defectors). However in another sense, this novel was a quick, powerful and even hopeful read. The author is able to convey the sense of love and family amongst the horrid atmosphere created by Kim Jong-il and the dreaded DPRK. In some ways this novel reminded me of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's famous "Gulag Archipelago." However it resonated on a more personal level, and it offers the hopeful message regarding "The truth . . . this is all I have to give them" (p.339)”tapbirds wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An incredible book. A look at North Korea through the life of a (fictional) orphan. The book can be quite disturbing at times, with depictions of the bad things that happen to people unlucky enough to fall into the hands of the state. However, it is also funny and deeply human. Notth Korea brings out a whole new level of crazey. Thank God that you don't live there. ”Don Wood wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This gripping historical novel exposes the frightening, twisted, and brutal regime of Kim Jong Il's North Korea. It's a novel of unfolding identities, some actual and some adopted. It exposes the lives of key characters who find themselves fighting to survive a reality contrary to a humanity they eventually discover in themselves.
At times it was difficult for me to read on, simply because what the characters had to endure and what they were discovering about themselves was difficult to take. If you are an strong "identifier" as you read and have a low tolerance for cruelty, this may happen to you as well.
I was stunned by the culture of deception, manipulation, and brain-washing, as well as the depravity, deprivation, and ever present fear of the potential to make a misstep unknowingly, something that would result in dire consequences.
Before reading this novel, I had read the non-fiction book about North Korea, Nothing to Envy, about how the people struggled to survive their poverty and what they were willing to risk to escape the country. I think that's what made The Orphan Master's Son so much more chilling to me.”