The Orphan Master's Son
A NovelBook - 2012
From the critics
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"Ga thought about reminding the Dear Leader that they lived in a land where people had been trained to accept any reality presented to them. He considered sharing how there was only one penalty, the ultimate one, for questioning reality, how a citizen could fall into great jeopardy for simply noticing that realities had changed. Even a warden wouldn't risk that."
"'What do the words mean?'
'They're about a woman whose beauty is like a rare flower. There is a man who has a great love for her, a love he's been saving up for his entire life, and it doesn't matter that he must make a great journey to her, and it doesn't matter if their time together is brief, that afterwards he might lose her, for she is the flower of his heart and nothing will keep him from her.'"
"Who had thought up this place? Who had concocted its existence? How ugly and laughable was the idea of a quilt to Comrade Buc's wife? Where was the pattern, with what fabric, would someone sew the story of life in this place? If he had learned anything about the real Commander Ga by living in his clothes and sleeping in his bed, it was the fact that this place had made him. In North Korea, you weren't born, you were made, and the man that had done the making, he was working late tonight."
"There were people who came into your life and cost you everything. Comrade Buc's wife was right about that. It had felt pretty shitty being one of those people. He had been the person who took. He'd been the one who was taken. And he'd been the one left behind. Next he would find out what it was like to be all three at once."
""A name isn't a person,' Ga said. 'Don't ever remember someone by their name. To keep someone alive, you put them inside you, you put their face on your heart. Then, no matter where you are, they're always with you because they're a part of you.' He put his hands on their shoulders. 'It's you that matters, not your names. It's the two of you I'll never forget.'"
"What had started as the children's song had become her song, and when the chords become disconnected, the notes wayward and alone, he understood that it was his. Finally, she stopped playing and leaned slowly forward until her forehead came to rest against the fine wood of an instrument she would never play again."
"In Prison 33, little by little, you relinquished everything, starting with your tomorrows and all that might be. Next went your past, and suddenly it was inconceivable that your head had ever touched a pillow, that you'd once used a spoon or a toilet, that your mouth had once known flavors and your eyes had beheld colors beyond gray and brown and the shade of black that blood took on. Before you relinquished yourself -- Ga had felt it starting, like the numb of cold limbs -- you let go of all the others, each person you'd once known. They became ideas and then notions and then impressions, and then they were as ghostly as projections against a prison infirmary. Sun Moon appeared to him now like this, not as a woman, vital and beautiful, making an instrument speak her sorrow, but as the flicker of someone once known, a photo of a person long gone."
"Is a destination worth reaching if you can't recall the journey? I'd say so. Is a new life worth living if you can't recollect the old one? All the better."
"Officially, the government took no position on what occurred while its citizens were asleep, but isn't something of the dreamer to be found in his dream?"
"'How does a society without a fatherly leader work?' Sun Moon implored. 'How can a citizen know what is best without a benevolent hand to shepherd her? Isn't that endurance, learning how to navigate such a realm alone -- isn't that survival?'"
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Johnson's narrative portrays his hero as he makes his way through a minefield of corruption and violence, eventually giving his all so that his loved ones might have a better life. VERDICT Readers who enjoy a fast-paced political thriller will welcome this wild ride through the amazingly conflicted world that exists within the heavily guarded confines of North Korea. Highly recommended
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