Book Review on The Orphan Master’s Son

I finished reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson a few days ago and thought it was so brilliant that I really had to write a review on it and that too, on my blog. When I finished reading it, I remember feeling empty and a bit dazed since I was so engrossed into the plot. I felt as if my whole life had turned into a piece of blank slate. I am the kind of person who is really picky about what I read (because I don’t want to regret buying a book I don’t enjoy). I am also the kind whom after reading a horrible book would feel like raging against the world, rip the damned thing into shreds and hurl it at the author’s face. In short, very few writing styles suit my preference but The Orphan Master’s Son just blew me away not to mention that I struggled with the prose at first instance. Before encountering this masterpiece, I was totally in love with Three Souls by Janie Chang but then this book came along and changed everything. Not that I don’t like Three Souls anymore, I still do but The Orphan Master’s Son – a tad bit more.

So getting on to my main topic, if you haven’t read it or heard about it yet, The Orphan Master’s Son is a novel that will leave you desolate and feeling shocked and heartbroken. If you’re reading with the same inquisitiveness and compassion for the protagonist that I had, you will feel for him throughout the story. I love the author’s unique way of dividing the story into halves so as to show us two very different settings that took place and how the protagonist transitions into the person that he will become. To make it short and refrain from revealing the whole story, the summary of this book is that it’s about a North Korean orphan called Jun Do who believes himself to be the Orphan Master’s son though in truth, he isn’t and he realizes that eventually. He goes on to have many adventures in search for his mom and in search of his own identity, who he really is in this world while working for his country’s regime at the same time. A tragic circumstance changes his life and from there, I’ll leave it for the readers to wonder…

The pace of this book is quite easy to follow. but it took me one month to finish due to my year-end exams and also because some passages rather confused me. I had to reread them again in order to understand what was going on.

Apart from that, this book really opened my eyes to what life must be like in North Korea though I have read many critics and reviews claiming that it is an exaggerated representation of North Korea, caricatured and heavily biased and I agree to some extent. In spite of that, it showed me the brutality of this country’s Communist regime which has taken the lives of so many innocent civilians and causing fear, distrust and even contention among families and friends. It showed me the way it has devoured every sense of their sanity and stripped away the freedom to live their lives based on their own choice and not upon the dictates of a savage, cold and ruthless government. In their regime, there is no true word for freedom except when it comes from the state, the government. Why? Because for them, the State is the bastion of all freedom and the State is no other than the dictator. As the author himself mentioned in one of his interviews, all citizens (of North Korea) are somehow like orphans with no real permanent identity. They all belong to the State who controls every aspects of their lives. Thus, the true Orphan Master is no other than the Dictator himself. Pretty sinister but an all-too deep and coherent interpretation. It perfectly explains the whole meaning of the story

To sum it up, Jun Do is the epitome of every man – every citizen who has suffered, lost a kin, friend and their life to the regime. He is their hero and the harbinger of humanity who has shown that even when terror, injustice and despair plagues a society, a nation, there can still be a glimmer of hope and that it is up to the individual to build that change. It tells also that sacrifice is the biggest love, the greatest gift you can ever give to a person. This book does not only have a thrilling and unpredictable plot, it also teaches you lessons on love, identity, sacrifice and hardships while at the same time, opening the doors to a nation so many people in this planet do not know about.

Take Me With You

Take Me with You, to the moon and back, as we cross the deep celestial ocean.

Take Me with You, around the world and beyond, as we leave our footprints on the soft fabrics of the earth.

Hold onto my hands and never let them go

else the wind blows me away or the tides whisk me off

And you wait for my return as the days turn into years.

Take Me with You, around the dance of fire, as we gaze into each other with fervent, glinting eyes.

Take Me with You, as we soar among the clouds and towards the ends of the earth – a hazy, silver outline.

Let us fade into the sands of the wintry desert

and inhale the soothing fragrance of ice-capped mounts

We will sit by a campfire under the bottomless sky

A violet curtain sprinkled with ivory stars,

as bright as the ones in your quiescent, lucid eyes.

Of Dreams and Longing

I search for your face among a sea of crowd. People coming and going – alien to our existence, obtrusive to their existence, their thoughts and souls as transparent as the air they breath in.

I seek for your sign, like how petals of a flower lie in waiting to bloom when the sun rays will fall on its limp wispy body.

I gaze across the distance, in hope of seeing your figure, your silhouette approaching towards me to embrace me again with kisses and futile promises.

I lend my ears to the open air, with a sorrowful longing to hear the subtle beats of your footsteps or the melodious pitch of your smooth flowing voice in the back of my ear and, inside the depth of my heart.

Yet memories remain a reminder of the future we decided and the past is buried beneath the sands of time. I shall keep waiting, hoping and dreaming that one day the wind changes its direction, that time finds a way to shift his sails, that the heavens open and the moon smiles,

as we meet again above a bridge of shining stars,

as two souls entwined in the cycle of love.

Angel Of The Night

Angel of the Night,

Embrace me with your wings

Wipe my boundless tears

And quench my flaming soul

Detach me from life,

Thrust me into your heart

And fill me with the anguish

Of the soulless stillness of your heart

Free me from destruction

From the turmoil I battle

From the inferno devouring

My sanity, my soul

Release me into the void,

Clothe me with your feathers

To conceal my sorrow –

Hiding my scars beneath your shadows

On Angel, my Love

Pull me into your darkness

So that my mind becomes your own

And my soul, a portion of your being.

Meaning Of Love

Love is the sun shining in the sky,

The birds chirping in the brink of morn,

The leaves rustling against the cool breeze,

The trail of footprints on the trimmed lawn

The scent of bacon and tulips lingering in the air

The china glass clinking in synchronized melody

The piles of baby socks littered in the doorway

The deck of cards scattered on the dining table

The cigarette ash tray infused with a heavy scent

The sound of your laughter ringing inside the house

The warmth of your hands inside my own

And your name written on my heart

Always and Forever

– I.K.

Silent Hallways

In the silent hallways,

I tread through dark corridors adorned by flaming torches against dying walls

I hear-

Lonely footsteps echoing off into the distance but without a soul in sight,

The pitter-patter of leaking water hitting the desolate floor,

Of an old vinyl record crooning mournfully in the empty ball room,

Of a somber melody whistling gently against the backdrop of this solemn tune,

And if you lend your ears and listen so carefully to the music ringing in the air,

You may hear the soft sounds of gleeful laughter and a woman’s voice calling out wistfully

To the fleeting wind.

Craving Inspiration

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So how on earth do you get inspired? I suppose all writers stumble on this question in one way or the other.

The first thing I remembered whenever I got inspired to write something was – I already knew what I had to write. I’d write about my pets, events happening in my family, high school, suspicious neighbors, spectacular trips etc etc. My mind was just full of stories that could not wait to be penned down on paper. They were pushing and shoving inside my head, so much to the extent that I felt unable to resist my urge to write them all down. After I finish or have gone through a page, I’d sit back and admire my new creation. It was a great feeling, almost like love.

One of the first points I believe invokes inspiration is experience. Experience shapes the way we perceive life, the way we view the world, the way we understand ourselves and the environment. Experience, in turn, become memories- life lessons to which we could look back in our later years and say, “That was the greatest moment of my life I will always cherish”.

On the contrary, having regrets don’t help us in any way. They only slow us down and prevent us from living fulfilled lives. Instead of that, one should learn to overcome them and take them as lessons to be learned, like a war to be won inside a battlefield. By gaining experiences, we’d be able to introspect our actions, analyze our perceptions and become better versions of ourselves. Going through hardships and obstacles in life is not a walk in the park but it is definitely the first step to a journey of a thousand miles. That is not to say, every experience in life has to be negative. We can cherish the positive ones as well. Only thing is that they don’t compel readers the same way as negative ones would.

Gaining inspiration in order to write a good content, however, is an arduous task and no, it’s not a hyperbole. There are instances where the creative juices don’t seem to pour out at all. Your mind is left empty. And you just leave the page blank all day, weeks then months until you totally forget about it. Another word for that would be procrastination but it’s way worse than that. You need ideas to write and if you can’t find any then where would the inspiration come from?! I know this has been mentioned so many times but noting anything that comes into your head is one of the best ways to keep your mind updated and seek inspiration whenever you least find it. I’ve started doing that owing to the fact that I was so lazy before.

Experience comprise of a larger part of abstract material called ideas. Ideas also consist of knowledge and imagination when it comes to writing. Knowledge is basically the stuffs you already know. Writing from one’s knowledge, particularly gained through experience and learning, is a great source for the backbone of a nice gripping content that would not only keep readers interested but also provide them with new facts and ideas. The third one, imagination, is the most difficult (according to me). I used to find it so easy to imagine a story in my head then pen it down on paper but if you ask me to do that now, I’d be completely stuck. Not everyone has an overactive imagination and if you do, you are one of those lucky ones.

To top it off, inspiration is the writer’s tool. It is her magic wand and when she begins the first stroke of her wand, they form into sentences, paragraphs, bind with ideas and trails of thoughts until finally taking shape into a story. The annoying thing, however, is inspiration doesn’t kick in easily. In my opinion, the easiest ways to get inspired is to open your mind, observe people, go to events, get out there and see the world, talk to people- if you don’t want to talk, listen to conversations, learn something new and most importantly, having a good memory so that you could write all those down again. If not, you can always keep a small notebook handy and jot down at the spot. On the other hand, it’s good to remember that writing doesn’t always guarantee success or sudden shot of fame. It takes time, involves huge amount of patience and of course, finding the right opportunity. As long as you write and keep inspiring yourself, there’s a good chance that you will get there, somehow.