The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's Son

By Adam Johnson

  • Release Date: 2012-01-10
  • Genre: Mysteries & Thrillers
Score: 4.5
From 827 Ratings
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The Pulitzer Prize–winning, New York Times betselling novel of North Korea: an epic journey into the heart of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship.

“Imagine Charles Dickens paying a visit to Pyongyang, and you see the canvas on which [Adam] Johnson is painting here.”—The Washington Post

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.


Named ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR by more than a dozen publications, including The Washington Post • Entertainment Weekly • The Wall Street Journal • Los Angeles Times • San Francisco Chronicle

Praise for The Orphan Masters Son

“An exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.”—Pulitzer Prize citation

“Mr. Johnson has written a daring and remarkable novel, a novel that not only opens a frightening window on the mysterious kingdom of North Korea, but one that also excavates the very meaning of love and sacrifice.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Rich with a sense of discovery . . . The Orphan Master’s Son has an early lead on novel of [the year].”—The Daily Beast

“This is a novel worth getting excited about.”The Washington Post

“[A] ripping piece of fiction that is also an astute commentary on the nature of freedom, sacrifice, and glory.”Elle


  • Best book I've read in years

    By JQuery
    This is a novel that hits all the sweet spots while still being intelligent and illuminating. Interesting and with a good pace- varied but never dragging-- the characters lived in me years after I read it. I learned so much about North Korea. (Unfortunately, it makes me afraid.)
  • Excellent story well written

    By KMM53
    I could not put this book down. Fascinating story that gives a glimpse of North Korean culture.
  • Wow.

    By killball
    People attempted to explain this novel to me before I had read it as a way of sharing their enthusiasm. Good thing none of them succeeded in their attempts. As a result, I won't even try. I hope you enjoy your time with this book as much as I did.
  • Truly Amazing

    By Bennyfica
    I LOVED this book. It's the best book I've read this year by far. Read it.
  • The Orphan Masters Son

    By The 24 hour bookstore
    Grim yet griping tale. An insight into the devastating land and life that is North Korea. While some of the stories within the story are impossible to believe, almost all are based on true stories filtered from the lives of defectors. This is an adventure, a tale of romance, a History lesson all rolled into one.
  • Captivating Story

    By Julio Alanis
    This novel is truly fascinating! I've always been intrigued with North Korea and wondered how one man can control an entire nation, this novel shows how that is made possible, but also focuses on a lone man and his struggle to find and protect the woman he loves. Beautifully written I highly recommend this novel.
  • Amazing Fiction

    By Dr Shendrikar
    This novel is exciting, at times unfathomable, difficult to put down! I highly recommend this one!
  • The Orphan Master's Son

    By One Suitcase
    I enjoyed the novel, but found the first of the two stories more compelling than the second story.
  • The Orphans Master's Son

    By sgueglia
    A rare adult read that doesn't come along too often.
  • An amazing read!

    By Youngplayer
    This novel is unique in my experience, so there is no higher praise. Unique in subject, of course, I've never known of, let alone read a novel set in and about North Korea. Almost as unique in style, not since Dos Passos' USA have I experienced a story told in so many distinct voices. Heartbreaking and hilarious, tender and terrifying, frightening and enlightening.