Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson


Well, you might not have heard that Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son won the 2013 Tournament of Books, but you are probably aware that it did just win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. And well deserved in my opinion; TOMS is one of the best books I have read this year.

The story takes place in North Korea, a country shrouded in mystery; what is real and what is imagined, who can say?  All I know is I couldn’t stop reading. The story follows the life of Pak Jun Do, an orphan who through a series of fantastical circumstances experiences the absurdity and the despair of life under a totalitarian regime.  The idea seemed impossible, preposterous, to him. What person could shift allegiance toward their oppressor? Who could possibly sympathize with the villain who stole your life?” Imagine an entire country of over 20 million suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and you’ll have an idea of life in the DPRK as depicted in the book. Remarkably, however, despite the brutality and tension inherent in the subject matter, the story was neither disheartening nor hopeless.

Only time will tell, of course, but I think this is a work of dystopian fiction that compares favorably to classics such as Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tournament of Books 2013

My progress on attempting to read all the 2013 ToB contenders  before March 1, 2013.

I stumbled on the Tournament of Books in 2012 through a post on Citizen Reader's blog. All but four of the books were available from my local library, which was helpful. I couldn't have managed it otherwise! Check out the Morning News site: for some of the smartest, most honest and funniest commentary on these 16 books published last year. 

  1. HHhH by Laurent Binet (currently reading)
  2. The Round House by Louise Erdrich (checked out from the library)
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (read in 2012)
  4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  5. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
  6. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
  7. May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
  8. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
  9. Ivyland by Miles Klee
  10. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
  11. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller  (read in 2012)
  12. Dear Life by Alice Munro
  13. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
  14. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  15. Building Stories by Chris Ware
  16. Billy Flynn’s Half Time Walk by Ben Fountain **
**read after the deadline