Emily's Reviews > The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
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Mar 26, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012

I almost never do this, but I'm marking this as read even though I didn't finish it. It'll take months to get it back from the library, but I didn't love it enough to buy it. I read about three-quarters and it's picaresque enough that I'm not convinced I missed a crowning final plot point that I needed to get to.

What I found most intriguing about this novel was how it illustrated the fundamental lies at the heart of a totalitarian state. Jun Do must lie about his true feelings and his past actions to survive. In one memorable sequence, he is coached through an invented excuse by his boss, who is pretending to believe the story Jun Do is making up as he goes along. The boss doesn't believe it, Jun Do doesn't believe it, and the people they're going to tell the story to won't believe it, but they all must adhere to an acceptable storyline. It's surreal and reminds me of books I've read about life behind the Iron Curtain.

If this book piques your interest about North Korea, try The Cleanest Race, which posits that Communism is not the aptest way to interpret the country.
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