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The Orphan Master's Son

A Novel

by Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's Son
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jan 2012, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2012, 480 pages

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There are currently 33 reader reviews for The Orphan Master's Son
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Linda N. (Dallas, TX) (11/06/11)

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) (11/03/11)

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.
Joan B. (Ellicott City, MD) (11/02/11)

The Orphan Master's Son
This book leaves me with conflicted feelings about reviewing it. I was glad to finish, but sorry it was over. Part One was fascinating and a fast read. To finish Part Two was more difficult, but absorbing. I continued to reread passages so I could understand the time frame. The daily loudspeaker announcements in every home emphasized one of the brainwashing mechanisms of a despotic government. It is interesting to realize how people accept the "truth" of the media. The way a Korean "John Doe" managed to maintain his identity was truly spellbinding. I always realized the inference of corruption and cruelty in North Korea, but never knew the truth of the matter. This book depicts the possibility of that truth.
Darlene C. (Woodstock, il) (11/02/11)

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.
John W. (Clayton, Missouri) (11/02/11)

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.
Carmen S. (Elkins, Arkansas) (11/02/11)

Painfully good
Powerful book. Sometimes painful to read but so engrossing you can't put it down.
Nancy F. (carmel, in) (11/02/11)

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.
Amber B. (East Sparta, OH) (10/27/11)

Well-written, engaging, but very heavy
To be honest, I'm still processing this book. It was amazingly well-written and engaging, but terrifying because of the unfathomable, hopeless conditions of the daily life that North Koreans face. It's a story that will make you consider the human will to survive, and what makes life worth living. It will compel you to ask how such a cruel regime - treating its own people so mercilessly - could possibly come into existence. The "Conversation between Adam Johnson and Richard Powers" at the end of the book is a must read to give readers some context. I want to read more by Adam Johnson!
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