Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Orphan Master's Son

Finished September 2
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

This novel follows Pak Jun Do, a boy raised in an orphanage in North Korea, by a father that showed no favouritism, but gave him the story of a lost mother, a singer. Jun Do moves into work as a tunnel soldier, trained to fight in the dark. That role leads him to be chosen to be a kidnapper, stealing people from coastal areas on command by the powers in Pyongyang. The changing demands, and the loyalty tests involved illustrate the uncertainty of life in this country. Jun Do has no family, but is trained by those he works with to change as the demands change, to become what they want him to be. Finally, in the ultimate loyalty test, he becomes one of the country's most exalted military leaders, reporting directly to Dear Leader and stepping into the life of Commander Ga.He lives in Ga's house, works at his job, and lives with his family. He falls in love with Commander Ga's wife and finally learns to true meaning of love. As he does, another story runs parallel, that of an unnamed interrogator who also learns the same lesson as he does his questioning.
This is a story of a country unimaginable to most of us, with characters who lead lives so constricted and dictated that they become merely survival.
While this is a novel, it leads to questions about life in North Korea and about the control and beliefs that are the nature of the lives lived there. Difficult to read at times, brutal, yet with hope, this is a novel that will stick with you.

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