The Orphan Master’s Son…Not Sure I Can Make It

I’m 10% into Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son. I’m not sure if I can take it much longer.

It’s a good book. It’s next on my list — the 2013 Pulitzer winner. It’s matter-of-fact. It’s Orwellian.  It’s easy to read, despite the vastly different cultures being portrayed. In fact, the culture is so amazingly, authentically, vastly different, it’s awkward to read in English. (Though the primary text is presumably written in English, I, like the writer of this Guardian review, assumed the author simply had to be Korean. But the author is an American that teaches at Stanford. The authenticity is incredible, at least to my ignorant, American eyes.)

The problem isn’t the quality of the writing or the story. It’s just too awful for me right now. There are horrible injustices and human violation rights perpetrated, even ten percent in. Ten percent. I don’t know if I can take the ninety percent more that’s in store for me. And you know what’s funny? It isn’t the human rights violations that made me put the book down and write this. It’s the sharks. The poor, poor sharks. Let’s just say they’re being abused and I cannot, cannot, CANNOT deal with animals being hurt.

The sharks were just icing on the “nooo, I can’t deal” cake, though. I googled a bit to see if I could look forward to more bearable material further in, and I see some developments in character are fleshed out later in the book. I’d look forward to reading about that. There’s an empathy and weakness for love in the main character that’s so far only been hinted at. More of this comes later. It also sounds like there is an attempt to escape this cultural prison, and I’d look forward to that as well. But I also read some quoted passages in reviews, and it warns me about going forward. I haven’t hit the worst of it, and frankly, I don’t really want to. It’s already so very, very awful.

This book reminds me quite a lot of Slaughterhouse 5. It’s got a matter-of-fact way of dealing with horrors that the human psyche simply can’t handle without shutting down, to some degree. That’s authentic, and it’s good writing. But man. I don’t know. It isn’t easy to handle, if you’re an empath.

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