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What Are You Reading?: This year’s Pulitzer for fiction

Devon Murphy-Petersen
Devon Murphy-Petersen

One of my book clubs just finished discussing this year’s Pulitzer winner, “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson. All four of us enjoyed the novel and were eager to talk about our impressions of the book.

The story opens with the protagonist, Jun Do, orphan son of a “stolen” singer, living in a dismal orphanage with dozens of other unfortunate boys in North Korea. As the years pass, Jun Do finds himself pressed into filling many roles: as a tunnel soldier beneath the DMZ, a kidnapper, an intelligence officer listening to U.S. ship transmissions from the belly of a North Korean fishing vessel, a prisoner in a mining camp, and finally as a national hero.

Vivid scenes of ordinary citizens trying to survive in a regime of overwhelming power bring the book to life. From starving children climbing trees to toss down chestnuts to Jun Do teaching his step son how to make song bird soup, the people of North Korea are shown as pawns in the game of an all-powerful leader.

Not just a good read, “The Orphan Master’s Son” also made me thank my lucky stars that I was born a citizen of the United States and not North Korea.

What are you reading? Send me your recommendations! Email is best: I look forward to hearing from you!

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