The Orphan Master's Son - Adam Johnson

Ok, so I feel like I am way behind on this one, but it has been on my to-read list for quite a while. Though I love to buy new books, I also like to get them on my kindle from the library. So now, despite having read it, I will admit that I have been known to go buy a book just because I really need to touch it, and flip the pages through my fingers. Oh, and maybe read it again, or give it to someone else. This is one of those books. This book was so epic (and yes, I am mocking myself as I use that word, but really, it was); part thriller, romance, action adventure, comedy, and tragedy, lots of tragedy.  I cared about so many different people in this story, and I wanted them all to be happy — but no, it’s not one of those books.

 

While I was reading, I found myself going to Wikipedia to check out the different places and events that serve as a backdrop to the story. This is the kind of historical fiction that depresses me with how ignorant I am, especially since I know pretty much nothing about the history of North and South Korea aside from what I learned watching M*A*S*H. But it also makes me feel better about myself, since I can convince myself that I am never too old to learn something. I found it hilarious and shocking when American life was described in their government propaganda. Some descriptions of our lives were dead-on, but missing the piece that helped it make sense to these people (“Americans keep canines as pets! They feed them from a can!”) It made me realize how curious and strange our lives can seem to people in such a foreign culture. When I finished this book, I read the interview with the author and the book club questions. There is so much secrecy related to the government of North Korea that very little is known of its population on a personal level, so I was curious to learn how the author prepared to write this story. Sadly, many of the more gruesome details described in this novel were based on actual events.

 

I’m not sure what I’m going to take away from all of this. This is the kind of book you read and you just know you are not finished with it yet. Maybe there is more to learn, or something I need to do, even if it’s just to pass the book along to the next willing reader. I’m not sure just yet, but I know that for the first time in quite a while I need to step back and think about what I read for just a little while longer once the last page has been turned.