Monday, August 13, 2012

My take on: The Orphan Master's Son

Sometimes I let hype influence my decisions. If a certain book gets a lot of praise, I think everyone must know what they are talking about. The book must great. I have to read it. I have to buy it. Or in this case I have to take part in the blog tour. Sometimes I agree with all the praise, and sometimes I don't. Unfortunately, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson falls into the latter category for me.

I go into every book believing I will like it. Wishful thinking on my part. I hate to say I don't like something, but I didn't like The Orphan Master's Son. I was intrigued by the storyline, a fictional take on life in North Korea, but there just wasn't enough there to hold my attention.

Pak Jun Do has lived an interesting life in North Korea. He is haunted by the disappearance of his mother. His father runs a work camp for orphans. But his father can't show him any special treatment, so everyone assumes Jun Do is an orphan. As an adult, Jun Do stumbles into an unusual career as professional kidnapper. It seemed rather bizarre to me, but it was actually a way for Jun Do's superiors to test his loyalty to North Korea. Once he learns enough English, Jun Do goes to work on a ship monitoring radio transmissions. His time on the sea is slightly more interesting than his time on land.

Everyone on the ship would rather profess their loyalty to Kim Jong II, than admit their failures. One of the deckhands decides to defect from North Korea, and an elaborate story is concocted to hide the truth. And when I say elaborate I mean it. Jun Do goes so far as to injure himself in a gory fashion (read the book if you want to know how). He tells the lie so many times, he begins to believe it himself. I don't know much about life in North Korea, but I imagine anything other than total loyalty to the government is forbidden. Jun Do has to stick to this story for his own survival. However, I found myself not caring about his survival.

The book just moves sooooooooo slowly. It just wasn't holding my interest. I hate to admit it, but I gave up on this book on page 144. I know the book shifts the narration to another character in Part II, but I just wasn't interested in the rest of the story. Sometimes it was hard to follow. The transition from kidnapper to boat worker seemed to happen so quickly, I wasn't sure if the writer was still talking about the same person. It just wasn't my cup of tea, but that doesn't all of you out there won't like it!!

Rating:  Meh!!!

Note: I received a copy from the publisher (Random House) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours


  1. Maybe you should have listened to this one? I thought it was really good, with 3 narrators for the 3 perspectives. Revealing really well I think life and ambiance in North Korea. here is my take on it:

  2. One of these days, I'm going to break down and listen to an audiobook. But I'm such a sucker for a physical book.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one for the tour.

  4. I'm afraid I was much harder on the book than you! Seems readers either love it or the opposite!

  5. A fascinating insight into the North Korean mindset. While a fictitious story, in the light of today's world, it is evident that there is truth in the underlying theme of the book.