Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Orphan Master's Son

The library's Tuesday evening book group will discuss Adam Johnson's much lauded and Pulitzer Prize-winning 'The Orphan Master's Son' tonight at 7:30 in the reading room.

'Here's a chance to visit sealed-off North Korea. Johnson's protagonist is an orphan who starts out as a tunnel soldier and rises through the military ranks until he's set to challenge Kim Jong-Il himself. Along the way, we encounter what one character calls "the greatest North Korean love story ever told." Evidently a blend of personal story and political revelation, with thriller overtones thrown in for fun, this work is being positioned as a breakout for Johnson.' - from the publisher's blurb on our catalog.

The question is, can readers stomach visiting North Korea which is depicted as soul-suckingly depressing, deprived and and dehumanizing? Some readers will dive right in and follow this picaresque tale of Pak Jun Do whose adventures make Candide's look like a walk in the park. Other readers, more squeamish ones, may find this story where hard luck follows bad luck with very little breathing room for optimism, hard going.

New York Times review 
in which reviewer Michiko Kakutani rightly calls the book's tone 'harrowing,' and goes on to say that after years of research and travel to North Korea, Mr. Johnson was able to,
'transform that research into an operatic if somewhat long-winded tale that is at once satiric and melancholy, blackly comic and sadly elegiac.'

The Pulitzer Prizes website

The Miami Herald interview with Adam Johnson
in which the author acknowledges that his fictional story cannot be entirely truthful because of the blackout of information coming from North Korea, but he based his book on stories from defectors, extensive research and a visit to the country.

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