The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

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OrphanMasterSonThe Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Random House, 2012), 2013 winner of Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Blurb: An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.

I wanted to like this book a little more than I actually did, but it’s stil a tremendous read.

The structure is a bit difficult, as it jumps backward and forward in time and shifts between third person singular and first person plural POV (the latter being very unusual and used to superb effect here), but once you get used to it that ceases to be a problem. The writing style is just fantastic. There’s humor laced with irony, and the author walks that fine line: Kim Jong Il is treated as a joke who is also a brutal dictator. Everyone in the book is painfully aware of the consequences of viewing him simply as a buffoon.

The author delves into the consequences of a true democratic people’s republic: the loss of privacy, individuality, and ultimately of self. The only Individual allowed to exist, and whose story is known to all, is the Dear Leader. Everyone else is part of the collective. And because everyone else is disposable, who someone is can change in the blink of an eye.

My rating: 5 stars

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