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The Orphan Master's Son

Monday, November 05, 2018

For my book group, I am reading The Orphan Master's Son, a 2012 Pulitzer prize winning novel about North Korean society by Adam Johnson, a teacher of creative writing at Stanford University.

Johnson claims he did a lot of research for the book - and that he had a source to verify the facts that he presents in the novel.

In this novel, there are few facts that actually exist for people; rather there are stories (lies) that are created to save people from punishment from the government.

I do not like the place this novel puts me in. I do not like the way that people's stories build upon each other over time, and how a person's story is more important than the person himself.

There is no way to know what is actually the truth -- what the facts are.

I am coming away from this novel, however, with an understanding of just how a society like this could operate. It is not a society where any of us would be comfortable living.

This novel makes the current political climate in the U.S. with claims of 'false news' seem like mere child's play -- almost innocent and harmless -- compared to the North Korean climate depicted in this book. In the U.S. today there are accusations and arguments from all sides. Everybody expresses their views publicly. People openly disagree and criticize their opponents. In this book's North Korea, there is only ONE story that gets told. All other versions are beaten out of people. People with the wrong version of the story (which may be the actual truth) are sent to prison camps -- or their families are sent in their place. Sometimes they are killed.

Also, most people's personal lives are very limited - geographically confined, occupationally narrowed, and personally restricted. They have few opportunities to pursue, and few choices to make for themselves; most aspects of their lives are determined for them.

This book has opened my eyes to what a restrictive totalitarian society might look like on the inside.

As usual with the books I read for the book group, I would never have chosen to read this on my own. And, even though I am about halfway through the book, I am still not enjoying it. This novel puts me in a very unpleasant place to be.

However, I am sure that the discussion with the book group later this week will enhance my understanding and my appreciation of this book.
It always does.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for your input on this novel.
    Like WATERMELLEN, I avoid books or movies that bring me down. Enough of real life (news) does that!

    However, hiding our heads in the sand....
    163 days ago
    Even though I know this goes on in North Korea, I believe this book would make me depressed. If I start a book that has a negative effect on me, I usually don't finish it. It really bugs me to not finish a book because I am so disciplined. It just feels like to much to bear knowing that people can be so persecuted.
    163 days ago
    good for you for sticking with this even if it is not your cup of tea hugs
    163 days ago
    emoticon Lots of food for thought.
    163 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    emoticon makes one think of a gratitude list here in the U.S in spite of the current political climate.
    163 days ago
    When a novel pulls me down, I set it aside.

    I know, I know: very self-indulgent and sometimes avoiding unpleasant truths. But (here's my excuse) I deal with enough unpleasant truths in my work situation: and my recreational reading is primarily intended to be "uplifting" or at least relaxing.

    Same response to a movie -- if the first scent is horrifying, I leave.

    Probably I'm not a good candidate for a book club OR a movie group, for that reason.
    163 days ago
    Sounds really horrible but it is no surprise to me. It is a good example of what happens in a society where freedom of speech and other individual rights are not protected. Korea is a divided country. A lot of our allies are concerned about the Unites States in our current political climate. I tend to think that our allies have a right to be concerned. We are evolving into a divided country too. Fake news is extremely serious as these false accusations are an attack on the freedom of the press and our ability to hear the truth. It's one of the first things that goes out the window when governments evolve into an authoritarian regime. Other countries are meddling in our elections by disseminating actual fake news in the hope that they will weaken our country. It is also being disseminated by some of our leaders, some of who appear to be allied with them. In addition, these same leaders are trying to get rid of people in authority who are required to find the truth. Some are also encouraging violent people in our society to hurt innocent people. I don't know what political ads are like in your area but in mine 90% of them are negative. Full of deceit, intolerance, division. I am extremely afraid to voice any of my views now that extremists are running loose killing people even though I agree with political parties on both sides on certain issues. It just seems to make me a bigger target. Our leaders lying to us is not innocent and harmless. It's meant to manipulative us. People in the medical profession take oaths of office. The same for some other professions like law, political leaders, etc. If medical people were as bad about keeping these oaths as these other professions are we would be knee deep in dead bodies. We need to demand all political parties and leaders to stop this nonsense and hold them all accountable. I want the truth, no matter how ugly it is or how much I might not like it. I think we are becoming more like North Korea every day and hopefully things will change soon. We need to get back to embracing the constitution, back to embracing morality, back to compromising and working with people who don't agree with us in every way. Sometimes we think we are right when we aren't. That is why it's important to listen to both sides, find the truth, and compromise. The alternative is to be like Korea.
    164 days ago
    Deep topic for the discussion group! You are really growing your mind in retirement!
    164 days ago
  • NEPTUNE1939
    164 days ago
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