Day 8: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

I finally finished the book that Rachel loaned me last week. I didn’t break down in tears, but I did have to take several breaks because things would just get so depressing and intense. I am going to attempt to write a book review for you. I’ve only ever written little blurbs for my GoodReads account, so I’m going to do the best I can.

The book is divided into two parts: The Biography of Jun Do and The Confessions of Commander Ga. Part One is told in third person, Part Two in third person, and from the point of view of an interrogator. Both parts are interspersed with propaganda speeches to the citizens.

For those who don’t know, every home in North Korea has a speaker which broadcasts propaganda news. Families can turn the speakers down, but not off.

The first part is the part I had the hardest time with. Pak Jun Do, hereafter referred to as Jun Do (which I kept reading as John Doe) is an orphan. His father runs an orphanage. During the Arduous March, the orphanage is destroyed. Jun Do is sent to the tunnels. He is found years later, and sent to work as a kidnapper. Then sent to sea as a transciber of radio transmissions. The fishermen have their wives’ faces tattooed on their chests, and weave stories to save themselves from trouble whenever something goes terribly wrong. After getting off the boat, he becomes a suit, and gets to visit America and meet a senator from Texas. He is a model citizen.

The second part tells two stories that interweave. One is the story of Commander Ga, the Tae Kwan Do champion of North Korea and the husband of Sun Moon. He is positioned as a rival to Kim Jun-Il. The second story is that of a nameless interrogator, trying to obtain information from different bad citizens. He writes their biographies. Commander Ga is brought in, and the interrogator must find out what happened to Sun Moon and her children. The two stories, and we slowly find out what happened.


The book is well written, and sad. I’m not one for peaches but I understand now why Rachel can no longer eat them.


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