Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An Award Well Deserved

ISBN-10: 0812982622
ISBN-13: 9780812982626
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Pages: 480
Language: English

Since the Pulitzer Prize Committee generously decided to offer an actual award for fiction this year instead of simply grumbling that 'they don't write 'em like they used to,' I thought I would take a moment to give credit where credit is due, and admit that they picked a great book. If you don't already know, The Orphan Master's Son follows the harrowing life of an orphan (but not really, it's complicated) in North Korea, depicted here as a nightmare state that could have been dreamed up by George Orwell. By all accounts Adam Johnson did his research, and the story feels terrifyingly real. In fact, The Orphan Master's Son is a crucial window into the world's most secretive country, perhaps only bested by the amazing nonfiction account Escape From Camp 14.

So, Johnson's book is no walk in the park, but if you can tough out the really grim parts, he diversifies the book's tone with a surprising amount of humor, romance, and beautiful surrealist set pieces. The Orphan Master's Son has been called Dickensian a million times already due to its rags-to-riches-to-rags structure, but the book really deserves the comparison for its epic scope and the beating, humanist heart that persists throughout the protagonist's numerous trials. Not to mention the beautiful, beautiful writing. Structurally, artistically, the book is a marvel-- as a work of pure compassion, though, it is almost unmatched.

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