Katie's Reviews > The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
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's review
Jun 22, 2012

really liked it
Read in June, 2012

I found this book's story very engrossing, although it's hard to say I "liked" it and hard to say if I'd recommend it to anybody who doesn't have a particular interest in North Korea (like I do). I did like it, but it was just so harsh and disturbing (how could it not be, with the subject matter?). But I thought the story was epic, and sweeping, and I was along for the ride.

I actually typically like dark subject matter and disturbing topics, but this one was harsher because it is reality for so many people in North Korea. It is fiction, but yet it is not fiction.

Having said that, it actually is a great love story amidst all the horror. There's a lot to think about with this book--it really makes you think about freedom... not just how we take it for granted, but how different people perceive it. More than once in this book, the concept of "freedom" was turned on its head, with the North Korean characters describing how their extremely restricted lives have their own tastes of freedom if you think about it a certain way.

There were a number of chapters written as if they were the regularly-scheduled propaganda broadcasts that North Koreans are apparently forced to listen to multiple times a day. I really liked this technique--it added to the book by forcing the reader to interpret the events of the book through the propaganda kaleidoscope, and it was at times freaky and at other times funny. I appreciated these chapters, as they sort of helped break up the seriously dark tone of the other chapters.

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