Currently Reading: The Orphan Master's Son
This post has been written and rewritten several times over. I'm unsure how to present this book to you. I don't want to give you a plot analysis because there are so many twists and turns and unexpected parts that I don't want to spoil anything. I don't feel informed enough about the politics involved to talk about those.
The only way to share this book with you properly is to tell you that I was astounded by it. I was absolutely floored by the story, by the characters, by the way Adam Johnson has taken the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a country that, despite this age of constant internet access and instant, infinite knowledge at our fingertips, we still know shockingly little about, and made it into one of the most fully-realized, terrifying places I've ever read about.
The story follows Pak Jun Do (think "John Doe" in English), who is not an orphan, but lives an orphan's life, as life takes him on many curious paths. He works in tunnels, he is a kidnapper, he learns English, he works on a fishing boat as a spy, and he travels to America. All of these experiences eventually lead him to a truly unique place. As another character later tells him, there is no word for what he has done because it has never been done before.
The Orphan Master's Son won the Pulitzer for Best Fiction last year. Yes, it is fiction, but it makes you think about this isolated country and what really goes on within its borders. How much truth made it into these pages?
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