It’s time to revisit Adam Johnson’s prophetic, Pulitzer Prize winning novel about North Korea, The Orphan Master’s Son. It was nearly four years ago that I reviewed it in my blog. I was stunned by the novel and now, with the United States and North Korea marching to the drum beat of conflict yet once again, with dire consequences of such a face off, this novel is must reading. Unfortunately, Donald Trump doesn’t read but instead relies on Fox and Twitter. If he read this novel, he’d understand why withdrawing support for the National Endowment for the Humanities is a grave error. From Johnson’s imagination and research, there is probably a greater truth regarding the North Korean persona than most government reports, not to mention TV coverage.
Here’s how I began my review…
North Korea is an enigma (to me at least). Only a few months ago the young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was saber rattling nuclear missiles, threatening not only South Korea, but American bases in the Pacific as well. Bizarrely, at about the same time, basketball celebrity Dennis Rodman visited the country and the new leader (apparently Kim Jong-un likes basketball). Rodman thinks he played peacemaker. How weird to see the heavily tattooed Rodman sitting side by side with the young chubby cheeked dictator.
Did I really want to know more about the circus-like-train-wreck of North Korea? However, the accolades for Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son were overwhelming, calling to me. So, I’ve read it and can understand why it deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature last year.
This is a compelling novel, such a good story, and so well written. But can life in North Korea really be as Johnson writes? While no one can say whether his depiction is accurate, it is fiction, and it succeeds as an allegory of universal themes.