Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House, 2012)

OrphanMastersSonJohnson explores the horrors of life in North Korea, from a prison colony to the internal operations of the security services.  Employing the tools of magic realism – perhaps the only tools that could possibly capture the insanity of the world he reveals – Johnson creates a masterpiece that, despite its grim storyline is nonetheless a paean to courage and sacrifice. The most fully realized narrative I have read since David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (see my short description).  Like Mitchell, Johnson enters a world that he must fully imagine, not having been able to experience directly anything of what he describes (though Johnson did manage to visit North Korea, and read extensive accounts of defectors).  A Pulitzer Prize-winner for 2012.