The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The book details the life, sufferings, decision, and triumphs of a young boy in North Korea, following him into adulthood. In the process, one is given a picture of life in North Korea, and it isn't pretty.
Very few reviews center on the brutality of life and the constant fear in North Korea caused by the totalitarianism of the top leader (in the book, Kim Jong Il), but that is what gripped me most. I was both horrified and riveted. I had already known of the extreme poverty of the country and of the worship that is expected to be paid to "our dear leader." But I was not aware of the prisoner camps, where people are tossed on a whim, or because of association with others who have fallen out of favor with the dear leader. And I was very little aware of the tremendous torture and suffering and deprivation that takes place at these prisoner camps.
The lack of freedom is also depicted starkly in the way the government regulates the lives of its citizens; indeed, their very thinking, through public address systems even within individual homes. The government tells you even when to get up and when to go to sleep. And the government is not predictable. The fates of many rest on the whims of the top leader.
The protagonist, instead of submitting to the system, eventually bucks the system in order to help the one he loves escape. The story is well-told, and told from three different perspectives, which makes it interesting. There is some sexual content.
I would recommend this to anyone seeking to empathize better with those who live in Communist countries. It certainly helps me empathize with my Christian brothers and sisters in North Korea, and I am left speechless again at man's cruelty to his fellow man. How evil evil can be!
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