Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son is a 2012 novel by Adam Johnson. It's an interesting view of North Korea for me. I don't recall ever having read a novel that took place there, and all I know of the country is what I see in the news. This adds a more personal perspective.

from the back of the book:
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother -a singer "stolen" to Pyongyang- and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy's loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself "a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world," Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jun Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress "so pure, she didn't know what starving people looked like."

In this epic, critically acclaimed tour de force, Adam Johnson provides a riveting portrait of a world rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.
There's a 42 in this book, though it's not the answer to anything:
We were finalizing a month-long interrogation of a professor from Kaesong when a rumor spread through the building that Commander Ga had been apprehended and was here, in custody, in our own Division 42.
It would've been easy to get the professor to confess, but that's not us, we don't work that way. You see, Division 42 is really two divisions.
In this book Division 42 is a place for torture. No useful answers at all come from such a place.

This meets one of my reading challenges, as it won a fairly recent Pulitzer Prize. Reviews are positive.


  1. I've read several stories about people in South Korea, but never North Korea. This sounds like an interesting read, and your take on 42 always makes me smile.

    1. I love reading novels that take place in parts of the world I'm unfamiliar with. I think it gives me as good a view as I'm going to get without actually going there. A bit of a taste, so to speak.

  2. Hmm. Interesting place to set a story. And interesting take on 42. I am intrigue about a culture where people readily buy into such a dictatorship kind of life. Glad you shared. Hugs-Erika

    1. I thought the author did a good job of illustrating the feelings towards Dear Leader. Such a different culture.