Friday, May 17, 2013
The Orphan Master's Son: A Review
The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson, is one of the most compelling books I have ever read. It is the story of a man's journey from childhood throughout his entire life. It is a story of North Korea in the recent past. It is a story of evil, brutality, the human need to connect with others, the meaning of love, and ultimate triumph.
This book is not for the faint of heart. In it, unspeakable atrocities are described in vivid detail. What is more disturbing to me, is the cold determination of the abusers, and their ability to justify what they do in the name of loyalty and national security. It makes me weep for the slippery slope we have embarked upon in our own country. Photos of our own soldiers torturing and humiliating captured "enemies" too often came to mind.
But Mr. Johnson is a master storyteller, weaving glimpses of hope, humanity, and even love, into the story so that one is compelled to continue. I began to feel I was in the story, and it was very hard to put it down to do mundane things like laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking dinner. It is easy to see why he won a Pulitzer prize for this book. The picture of North Korean life reinforced my gratitude for living in this wonderful country, but it also highlighted areas where we have so much to improve: the poverty and lack of decent education of so many of our citizens, the high rate of people incarcerated compared to the rest of the Western world, and the level of violence in our country. There are large areas of our country where people live with just as much fear and despair as the citizens of North Korea. This book has compelled me to do more to work toward improvement here at home.
I highly recommend this book, but warn that it is not an "easy" read. I had to pray constantly as I read; for the millions (billions?) of people throughout the world for whom the life described is a reality, for the wisdom to see whatever part I play in creating this awful reality, and for the courage to work toward peace and safety for all.