The Orphan Master’s Son
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother-a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang-and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.
Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”
Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Beautifully written fiction with an otherworldly quality. A brilliant blend of fact and fantasy.
The Orphan Master’s Son is a thrilling and beautiful novel. We follow the orphan Jun Do on an emotional journey, from dismal beginnings through his rise to the upper levels of the North Korean military.
In this captivating espionage tale, the reader is drawn into a world of cruelty, corruption and camaraderie. Protagonist Jun Do learned at an early age the violent behaviour that would lead him to become a ruthless mercenary and kidnapper, playing both ends against the middle between North Korea and America. The author creates a story that produces heartfelt emotions of innocence gone wrong.
The Orphan Master’s Son is a masterful portrayal of the mind-numbing psychological consequences of life in a society where huan freedom is sacrificed on every level.
In a country where everything is a lie, and starvation, torture, kidnapping and forced labor are used by the government on its citizens and enemies alike, most North Koreans live lives of oppression. Pak Jun Do’s life becomes a focusing lens, which enables him and those whose lives he touches to see the truth and choose to live free from the oppression, whether just for a moment, or a lifetime.
Combining coming-of-age, romance and adventure, this novel depicts the mysterious world of North Korea as though written by an insider. Following Pak Jun from life in an orphanage to espionage, torture, and finally as the husband of an actress, we learn about the conflicts of a place we know little about while still experiencing its peoples ability to love and hope.