The Orphan Master’s Son

Movel of the Month

The Orphan Master's SonListening to this book was a little difficult because of the topic.  I mention this point because of the torture and prison scenes, interrogations, lies, conspiracies and political heat that takes place in the novel.  It is a story that might appeal to men more than women.  This is not to say that females wouldn’t enjoy Johnson’s work but I found it difficult to follow at certain moments (especially when Pak Jun Do poses as Commander Ga and everyone plays along—including the fearless leader).  From learning to kill and kidnap, to being a fisherman on a vessel, then taking another man’s identity, Pak Jun Do lives a hard life.   At times, it can get a little confusing.  Following Pak Jun Do in his footsteps is never boring but his experiences may be more interesting to the male population.  What got me angry is the time period.  It takes place in contemporary North Korea and it boggles my mind as to how a government can still be so controlling over their people.  It is portrayed as a nation which disregards and disrespects America’s beliefs, while punishing those who may have swayed away from the great leader’s rules.  Anyone not showing enough patriotism is locked away or even killed.  Yet, there are still so many countries that act like this, so I shouldn’t be surprised.  Actually, it may be the realness of the story that draws readers in.  Nevertheless, it is an intriguing novel that will satisfy those who enjoy foreign politics, stolen identities and kidnappers.

HisLit title read-alikes:
If you liked this book, here are other ones that you may be interested in:
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
The Palace of Dreams by Ismail Kadare
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

HisLit author read-alikes:
Want to read other authors who have a similar style to Johnson?  See the following suggestions:
-E.M. Forster (Just as with Johnson, Forster’s forte is the exploration of human nature as illustrated through human interaction, so his stories primarily focus on relationships within a particular social construct.  Start with Howard’s End.)
-George Saunders (Fans of Johnson will like the witty, surreal, and imaginative fiction of award-winning author George Saunders, who mocks the absurdity of modern society while recognizing the tragic circumstances of those who live within it.  He satirizes consumer culture, ruthless politicians, and the banality of life with darkly humorous fables.  Start with CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.)
-Denis Johnson (he writes offbeat, introspective, and realistic stories about outsiders and misfits trying to find their place in contemporary America.  These loosely plotted, character-driven tales feature well-developed, frequently pathetic eccentrics involved in desperate crimes, absurd and brutal wars, and aimless wandering.  Start with Tree of Smoke.)

Sometimes people are driven to dark drama.  After all, there is a time and place for everything.  The Orphan Master’s Son is a clever book that will get you thinking and also make you grateful for living in a more democratic society.  Enjoy reading and Happy Father’s Day!




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