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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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Linda P. (MEDFORD, WI)

Not My Cup of Tea
Adam Johnson is a very good writer. I just didn't enjoy his novel. I thought I would enjoy it by it's blurb, but I was wrong. I'm sure The Orphan Master's Son will appeal to many, but it left me feeling sad. Enough said.
chetyarbrough.com

Captain Korea
Adam Johnson's book, "The Orphan Master's Son", tells a tale about the dismal condition of life in North Korea. His fiction is consistent with Barbara Demick's "Nothing to Envy" that is based on interviews of refugees from Kim Jong-Il's totalitarian regime; i.e. Johnson's fictional picture fits descriptions given in the North Korean' interviews.

Johnson tells a story of Pak Jun Do, his survival and advancement in Kim Jon-Il's "Alice in Wonderland" world where cards can be soldiers because the "Mad Hatter" (North Korea's Dear Leader) says it is so. Pak Jun Do's life begins in an orphanage; he becomes a kidnapper of Japanese citizens for the Dear Leader, and later assumes the identity of a general in the Korean army. Pak Jun Do's surrealistic adventure exposes bizarre methods of intimidation, torture, and propaganda that sustain North Korea's existence.

The pace of Johnson's narrative, the clever exposure of North Korea's propagandist methodology, and his references to reported real life incidents (like the kidnapping of Japanese citizens) keep one's interest long enough to complete the book. However, Johnson's story is disjointed with jarring segues in the history of its hero. Johnson packs many bizarre incidents in his story but character development is weak. The love of Pak Jun Do for North Korea's most famous actress and how that love develops is too contrived and unbelievable.

Johnson's book reads like a comic book episode of Captain America or, more aptly, Captain Korea. The hero's tortuous flight to freedom is unconvincing.

North Korea is a dark totalitarian country that needs real heroes. Adam Johnson appears to have enough understanding of the country to create a more believable North Korean character than Pak Jun Do.
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.

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