The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son

A Novel

Book Club Kit - 2012
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The son of an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il.
Publisher: New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2012
Edition: Random House Trade Paperback edition
ISBN: 9780812982626
Description: 10 identical volumes in tote bag ; 36 x 45 x 16 cm

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List - Fahrenheit 451
CRRLAdults Aug 03, 2018

The son of an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il.


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RogerDeBlanck Jul 27, 2018

Johnson’s novel The Orphan Master’s Son deserves placement on a list of contemporary masterpieces that may include such memorable works as Morrison’s Beloved, McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Robinson’s Gilead, and Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. One measure of great literature is its ability to be life-affirming. Johnson challenges our intellectual foundation and unseats our moral capacity by giving us a terrifying glimpse of life inside North Korea. In doing so, he alters our understanding of the extent of human atrocities and amplifies the power of the human heart.

Told primarily through the experiences of the remarkable character of Pak Jun Do, Johnson allows us to feel the horror and violence of one of the world’s most maniacal regimes. Jun Do’s hard life leaves you full of compassion for the pain and suffering he endures. But even while your heartstrings are wrenched, your pulse will be racing as you take the plight with Jun Do into the darkest machinations of the North Korean government. When cruelty and sorrow seem certain to crush Jun Do, his perseverance and courage grow stronger.

Johnson’s narrative is mind-bending with its bizarre circumstances and shifting voices. It is equally thrilling to find out what will happen next. The story ranges from stylistic elements of satire, adventure, survival, and even romance, but its many layers and dimensions only contribute to its greatness. This novel demands a lot from readers, but the rewards are immense. The Orphan Master’s Son is a feat of literary imagination at the highest rank.

suzannethomas Apr 27, 2018

This 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning work of fiction is a riveting read. A masterful story-teller, the author moves between the absurd to the obscene while describing life in North Korea and how much suffering and deprivation humans can endure while remaining human. A fast paced, political thriller, if you enjoyed “1984”, “Oryx and Crake” or “The Hunger Games”, give this a try.

l
Lotushead
Apr 10, 2018

Learn something about Korea and read an usual story.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Nov 21, 2017

This is about Pak Jun Do a boy whose father is an illegal child labor enforcer in North Korea. Pak soon takes on his father's role and rises through the ranks but because of impossible demands from his superiors, he soon becomes enemies with the dictator Kim Jong Il. But then risks it all to be with the woman he loves, an actress. This book didn't really explore some aspects that I was hoping it would, and when I first picked it up I thought it was going to be from the perspective of one of the actual child slaves escaping. The story itself was very well written, but I wouldn't recommend it to someone else.
- @Florence of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

h
HEFFCO53
Sep 13, 2017

I recently "tried" to read this book and found it to be poorly written and dreadfully boring not to mention that it was an awful subject. My question is: How did a book like the win the Pulitzer prize? I find that there have been some very obscure books that I picked up and read and really enjoyed and then a prize winning book I can't get through more than 100 pages before putting it down because I just can't plow through it any longer.
I don't recommend this book.

r
rakeshseathu
Mar 30, 2017

An unimaginable world, beautifully expressed in words.

k
Kagan1
Sep 07, 2016

Such a long novel that I had difficulty finding the motivation to finish. Excellent story teller - I just was hoping to find a purpose/direction to the stories. Perhaps I will finish after a mental break.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 03, 2016

In its entirety, The Orphan Master's Son is quite a feat of storytelling. The unraveling! The nuances! Johnson has pieced together details so relevant, so numerous, I imagine I missed so much brilliance. It all fits together so perfectly.

h
HollyDavis022
Mar 11, 2016

Ironic and thought provoking. Loved it.

d
DWIGHT A GREEN
Mar 11, 2016

The novel centers on Pak Jun Do, a North Korean noticed for his talents and loyalty who quickly rises through the ranks to increasingly important roles. It could be called a Bildungsroman since Jun Do's education never stops as he develops a more complex consciousness in each role. Jun Do was the son of the leader of an orphanage/work camp (the Orphan Master of the title) and a singer. His mother's beauty is noticed and she was abducted for an official in Pyongyang. To avoid showing favoritism to his son, the Orphan Master gives him a typical orphan name from the list of Grand Martyrs of the Revolution. Because of this, Jun Do has to continually explain why he isn't an orphan. North Korean stigmas run throughout the novel: orphans (ironic given how many were made because of the government, vicious in its alleged good intentions), dogs, and black & white movies for examples.

The running joke about Jun Do (think John Doe)'s orphan status is only one small part of the humor in the novel. Many examples come from the absurdity of the government and its loyal followers while others come reflect the inability of the North Koreans to fathom what is actually happening around them (such as Jun Do's ignorance about the International Space Station while listening to their communication transmissions). The story follows one improbable episode after another, believable because of the implausible nature of North Korea.

Johnson includes many ghastly events, such as blood harvesting and assembly-line lobotomies. His descriptions are matter-of-fact since there is no need to embellish the horrific practices. The desire for complete control shows in almost every action by government leaders, even in individuals trying to provide a more humane system of torture.

Jun Do realizes there is a better world and never stops striving to improve conditions for those he loves…something that can only be done outside of North Korea. Very highly recommended.

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katrinalp01
Jun 19, 2015

katrinalp01 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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maggielo
Aug 23, 2016

Johnson's narrative portrays his hero as he makes his way through a minefield of corruption and violence, eventually giving his all so that his loved ones might have a better life. VERDICT Readers who enjoy a fast-paced political thriller will welcome this wild ride through the amazingly conflicted world that exists within the heavily guarded confines of North Korea. Highly recommended

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