The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, a selection for the 2013 Tournament of Books, is exactly the kind of book I’ve come to hope for from the tournament. I’d heard that it was good, but not until I read it myself, and it reached out and dragged me into it for 440 odd pages, did I appreciate HOW good, or how glad I am to have this book in my life now.
A boy in North Korea, who is NOT an orphan as he defensively tells people throughout his life, grows up and has improbable adventures with unbelievable coincidences. Horrible and wondrous things happen. It’s like a Dickens story set in a communist state, the details of which are so insane it reads like satire, but probably isn’t. Especially in the second half of the book, point of view and time switch suddenly and often, yet I didn’t have trouble following the narrative. This reminded me of David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, except without the bat$hit crazy magic stuff. Kim Jong Il = bat$hit crazy all by himself, no magic needed. I loved this book, and highly recommend it.