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The Orphan Master’s Son- a book review


The Orphan Master's sonHello friends, I finally got around to one of the books on my summer reading and I’m pretty happy to have finished it! I should’ve maybe started with an easier read from my list but I was inspired to read The Orphan Master’s Son because this was my book club’s choice for the summer.

The Orphan Master’s Son is a pretty hefty book and definitely not a light read.  It takes on as its subject, life in the Hermit Kingdom, otherwise known as North Korea.  The narrator is Jun Do and before the book ends, we see him live different lives and play different roles.

Johnson does a great job of painting a vivid and bleak picture of what life must be like in North Korea  thanks in large part to the huge amount of research he undertook as well as a closely supervised visit to the country. But what makes this book really sing is the scope of his imagination because research alone is not enough to convey the minutiae of life and the way he wields language to show us this life.  Terrible, ugly things are depicted here but Johnson is equally adept in writing passages of delicacy and beauty.

 My favorite passage in the book is between a father and son..

There is a talk that every father has with his son in which he brings the child to understand that there are ways we must act, things we must say, but inside we are still us, we are family….He told me that there was a path set out for us. On it we had to do everything the signs commanded and heed all the announcements along the way. Even if we walked this path side by side, he said, we must act alone on the outside, while on the inside, we would be holding hands….Inside is where the son and the father will always be holding hands.”

For me this sums up beautifully what the book aims to show us about the Hermit Kingdom.


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