The Orphan Master’s Son (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson (2012).  This novel won the Pulitzer Prize, and it was well-deserved.  It is set in North Korea, of all places, and it shines a spotlight on what it would be like to live under that country’s insane totalitarian regime.  How can one live when there is no predicting what will get you in trouble with the authorities and sent off to a prison camp from which no one ever returns?  Or, conversely, proclaimed a Hero of the People—which itself only leads to greater scrutiny and greater danger?  Years of research into modern North Korea went into this novel, and it makes for a compelling and utterly believable tale.  The hero is Pak Jun Do, who survives a childhood in a work camp for orphans, endures a spell as a professional kidnapper for the regime, and then enjoys a relatively happy period as a spy aboard a small fishing vessel.  But arbitrary violence and cruelty are always close at hand, and ability and loyalty to the regime are no defense to the whims of the powerful or the denunciations of the envious.  It truly boggles the mind that a place like this really exists, and that millions of real human beings suffer under such a regime.


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