Alice Meloy's Reviews > The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
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's review
Aug 12, 2012

really liked it

A young boy, raised in an orphanage (his father is the "orphan master") in North Korea, goes on to a life of surreal adventure. Like a puppet on a string, which must be the way many North Koreans feel about themselves -- at least in this novel, he is plucked from a job as a tunnel digger to become a part of a team that kidnaps people in Japan, a secret radio operator on a fishing boat, an envoy to Texas (!), a kind of double agent, and, eventually, a General who rubs shoulders with the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il. Johnson presents a very plausible picture of North Korea (we know so little about the country) and the nature of its totalitarian regime. At times the absurdity of situations is laugh-outloud funny; the rest of the time we can only marvel at how our hero can maintain his sanity. Readers who enjoyed the complexity of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet will enjoy this complex and compelling novel. Recommended.

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