Title: The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel by Adam Johnson
Random House Paperback: August 7, 2012
Genre: political fiction
"My friend," Jun Do said, the tears streaming down his face, "I couldn't save him. He was alone and the water was dark. I couldn't even save a piece of him. " (p. 88)About the book: Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. The state soon recognizes the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Jun Do rises in the ranks, becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. (based on publisher's description).
My comments: I knew that this novel was a fictional look into the daily workings of North Korea and the lives of the struggling people, personified by a young man Jun Do, who becomes part of the political machine. I saw Jun Do as a John Doe, a faceless Everyman of his political system, expected to be just one more cog in the machine. He was not a person I could be sympathetic to, for the most part, as he didn't seem totally real.
What I did not expect was my reaction to the book. I entered a surreal world that was contradictory and without reason - your worst fantasy or a bad nightmare. I got the idea right away about the unbearable conditions and the insanity Jun Do and others faced.
After my first impressions, I wanted something familiar to keep me reading, something even remotely familiar to break the heavy and strange atmosphere. I couldn't find the reasons behind the book except to show the unbearable conditions. I wanted brilliance in the prose, wanted symbolism, philosophical musings even. The straight forward narrative was too heavy-handed for me. It was like being hit with the details of a horrendous situation over and over when less would have been enough and would probably have worked better for the book. Trying to finish the novel became difficult. I couldn't move forward and was bogged down by its weight.
In all fairness, I have to say the book is on the New York Times bestseller list. There are readers who see what I can't. But I do give kudos to the writer for all the research and time invested in writing this unusual book.
For other reviews and thoughts on The Orphan Master's Son, visit TLC Book Tours.
Thanks to http://tlcbooktours.com
and the publisher for providing an ARC of this novel for review.
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