Advance reader reviews of The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson.

The Orphan Master's Son

A Novel

By Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's Son

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There are currently 32 member reviews
for The Orphan Master's Son
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  • Shirley D. (Amherst, MA)


    Brilliantly Written
    I didn’t know much about North Korea and I’m not sure I want to know any more. The Orphan Master’s Son is so brilliantly written, I found myself immediately involved in the lives of the of the characters. I’m glad I read it but wish I hadn’t felt so personally involved – no objectivity here. The writing captured me completely and I could read just so much at a time. I am conflicted. I have to say it is a wonderful/awful book and I’ll never in the future hear the words “North Korea” without a personal connection..
  • Linda N. (Dallas, TX)


    The Orphan Master's Son
    A disturbing,challenging book that takes the reader into North Korean culture where truth finds expression in lies and deceit. Intrigue, danger, and glimpses of human vulnerability define this unique rites of passage story. The plot is rich; the characters are as illusive as the fabricated lives they live. The story haunts long after the last page.
  • Lesley M. (Mesa, AZ)


    The Orphan Master's Son
    I was very disappointed with The Orphan Master's Son. The storyline seemed promising; the life and struggles of a young man growing up in North Korea. I like to read books that take me to another country and let me learn about their culture, but this book didn't give me enough of a feel for the place to let me "go there". The characters were not developed enough and the story line seemed unstructured. So, I never really got into the book at all.
    I would not recommend this book to a book group or to a friend.
  • Nancy F. (carmel, in)


    Addictive read...
    This would not be a genre that I would normally read, however I was intrigued by the offering.
    This unique story captured me from the beginning. Even though I am widely read across many cultures, this is the first novel I have read about North Korean life.
    The character development is terrific and my caring for them made the story even more suspenseful. I would recommend this book to my friends and my book club as it has so many points of view to discuss.
  • Carmen S. (Elkins, Arkansas)


    Painfully good
    Powerful book. Sometimes painful to read but so engrossing you can't put it down.
  • John W. (Clayton, Missouri)


    Vivid view into life in North Korea
    "The Orphan Master's Son" is an impressive novel about a man called Pak Jun Do's journey from childhood to manhood in a country, North Korea, where little is known about daily life. The story follows Pak Jun Do departure from the orphanage to life as a tunnel soldier, a professional kidnapper, language student, radio operator on a fishing vessel, a hero who visits Texas on a government mission, and then a prisoner. The writer describes in detail how the totalitarian regime operates enabling the reader to understand how people submit to its relentless propaganda and repression. Several times in the book the North Koreans express concern and horror that people in the U.S. must pay for everything. Rather than view freedom of a positive it’s viewed as a negative that people don’t have the protection and safety that comes from a government that dictates every aspect of their lives. Jun Do says he doesn't think he could ever feel free in the US; that everything in North Korea makes clear sense and it's the most straightforward place on earth.

    I highly recommend this book to readers that like reading about life in other cultures. It is a wide ride of emotions with periods of very disturbing descriptions of the cruelty, courage and love. Prepare yourself for a slow read - it contains very detailed description of events and the book can be confusing at time as narrator changes and it jumps from one time period to another.
  • Darlene C. (Woodstock, il)


    A Tale of Souls
    An amazing novel. The tone of this book mirrors the society it describes. I found it difficult to read except in short doses because it reflects the oppressiveness of North Korea so accurately. It is a dark story of hopelessness and survival - not one to read if you are looking for a happy ending. However, it is well worth reading. The writing is brilliant; the characters are fully developed. The author's ability to mirror North Korean society through his choice of language is amazing. This book would provoke interesting discussions in book clubs. I can't say I enjoyed this book as it is so depressing; however, it is an excellent book that is extremely well written.
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