Book Review: “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson

Looking for a summary, go elsewhere. My reviews are not like that.

The Orphan Master's Son
The Orphan Master’s Son

My better half bought me The Orphan Master’s Son because John Green (yes, that John Green from Youtube.com’s Mental Floss) said it was one of the best written books. I don’t have the quote. I’m relying on my better half for that info.

That said, my sentiments are not far from John Green’s.

Genuine understand of emotion: The way Jo

hnson describes torture, pain, love, loss, gain, hunger, thirst, power, weakness, and countless other things is so spot on and so deeply touching at almost every chance, it’s difficult to believe Johnson did not come from just such a background.

Political versus social: Another thing I want to commend Johnson for is his dance between showing North Korea in a negative light while showing the humanness of most of the North Koreans we meet in the book. Likewise, most of the book dances around the idea that the United States is not so perfect either. This is made clear with Jun Do, the main character, goes to Texas as part of a convoy. The Senator and others treat Jun Do and his Comrades as poor and ignorant and lesser humans.

I only have 2 gripes, and one isn’t even with the book, but with the mass reaction to the book.

First gripe: Popular praise for The Orphan Master’s Son focuses on Johnson’s ability to get inside North Korea like no one else.

Though this might be true in terms of popular novels, there’s still little we actually know and this is so far outside the realm of what people SHOULD be praising the book for. It’s still a work of fiction and based very loosely on loose understandings of a shrouded system and society. Not to mention that it makes Kim Jong Il out to be an absolute idiot. Which is usually almost never the case with any political leader, no matter how much you might think so.

Second gripe: The end. Not so much that it ended inappropriately. It didn’t. The story line was appropriate, fitting, and I loved it, as much as I hated it (you’ll understand when you read…I’m not going to spoil it for you). No, my gripe is with Jun Do’s lesson. Basically, what he learns is, probably, the reason for the book. It ruined the whole thing for me. It’s as if all that praise I gave Johnson for showing the U.S. in an accurate light goes out the window in a matter of 2 pages.

My favorite hated analogy is the movie Signs. Mel Gibson loses his faith in God, aliens attack, people die, Mel Gibson wins his faith back, aliens die. I have no respect for this movie so I have no issue ruining this one for you…the director did a fine enough job on his own. Point is, the aliens attacked and people died SO MEL GIBSON COULD GET HIS FAITH BACK. A terrible terrible theme that borders on the most self-absorbed understanding of religion ever manifested on the big screen, or anywhere.

The ending of The Orphan Master’s Son was similar.

But, the rest of book was so brilliantly sewn together, that most of that doesn’t matter. Had this last page not been what it was, I would run up and down the streets screaming my new favorite author. As it is, I can only say, great book. Masterfully done.

 

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