What readers think of The Orphan Master's Son, plus links to write your own review.

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The Orphan Master's Son

A Novel

by Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson X
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2012, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2012, 480 pages

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There are currently 35 reader reviews for The Orphan Master's Son
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WDH (FL)

Bizarre but Captivating
I was completely engrossed in the story from the opening pages and remained captivated until the end. Very descriptive passages of life in a country where everyone lives in fear, there is no such thing as truth and survival means finding a place deep within yourself to escape what is really happening around you. Torture, murder, starvation, lies, propaganda and disappearances are accepted as normal and for the most part ignored because to call attention to any of those things or question them might mean you disappear as well. The main character led a completely bizarre life - from orphan to impostor - with many adventures in between. The other character that resonated was the prison camp photographer and what becomes of her photographs. There are a few 'over the top' areas, but they aren't too much of a distraction. I read the final paragraph several times. Highly recommend.
Jill S. (Chicago, IL)

Vividly original and imaginative
Part adventure thriller, part real-life dystopia documentary, part imaginative feat, Adam Johnson searingly paints a portrait of a culture where the individual is erased and the collective is all that matters. Filled with twists and turns and exposure of the dark realities of life in North Korea (kidnapping of innocents, repression and propaganda), this is truly an imaginative feat. Fans of writers like David Mitchell and Denis Johnson have another treat in store!
Michele W. (Kiawah Island, SC)

Trauma narrative
Adam Johnson describes his new book, The Orphan Master's Son as a trauma narrative, and it is. But it's also beautifully complex, densely plotted and peopled with memorable characters struggling to live in the twisted world of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il. It's horrifying, exciting, touching, funny, demanding, and impossible to describe adequately in 50 words. If you love David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas or The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I believe you will adore The Orphan Master's Son.
Sande O. (Rochester, NY)

A Story of Obsession
Adam Johnson's view of life in North Korea is not for the feint of heart. Though fictional, it has the eerie sound of ultimate truth. This is a society without love, without hope, without any human emotion. The "beloved" leader is the source of all. There is nothing beyond what he allows and what comes over the loud speaker system: American invaders at the borders, retired Koreans luxuriating at state sponsored resorts. While prison camps and starvation abound. Against this background our anti-hero develops an obsession for a former movie actress and risks all for her. It gives his life meaning, but can it be love? I'm not convinced anyone is this society is capable of knowing what love is. Still it's a book worth reading.
Betsy R. (Gig Harbor, WA)

Worth reading
This is not typically the type of book I would select; however, its unique setting, the original story line and the excellent writing made this a title that I am very glad I read. I would tell readers to be patient as they navigate through the characters and premise because it will be a book that you will love and remember.
Jerry P. (Santa Rosa, CA)

The Orphan Master's Son
I have mixed emotions regarding Adam Johnson's book. He is an excellent writer and thoroughly researched his subject - the clandestine country of North Korea and its people. He artfully portrayed the effects of living in an autocracy (e.g., the people became like robots.) I was reminded of the purges that occurred in the USSR under Joseph Stalin when I read about the torture the main character endured in prison and then had the unsettling realization that this country has a nuclear capability.

It took me a while to get accustomed to the lack of continuity between chapters especially the differing time periods and the incredible changes in the main character. I also keep reviewing what I had already read to keep on track.
Patricia K. (Oak Park, California)

Orphan Master's Son
I took my time with this book. Reading this book, I was exposed to a society I've never read about before, and became very curious about places and events. At times I stopped during the reading of the book to look up places and events such as the famine of the 90s, Kim Johng Il, and Pyongoang. The idea that in this society the good of the collective matters more than the individual is played out throughout the book. Fascinating read, from the aspects of a view of to the country and the way it runs, to the effect the society has on its people.
Katherine Y. (Albuquerque, NM)

Compelling Story, Wanted to Get Inside the Characters More
While the writing was excellent and the story fascinating and complicated, I wanted more characterization. I felt the story wasn't as powerful because, the events of the story overshadowed the actual people experiencing them.

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