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Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson Review

Title: Fortune Smiles

Author: Adam Johnson

First published July 30, 2013

321 pages, Kindle Edition

Rating: 4.02


Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a heart-wrenching tale of a young boy named Theo Decker. After a tragic accident, Theo finds himself alone and without direction in the bustling city of New York.

He is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend, but even their kindness cannot ease the unbearable longing he feels for his mother. In an effort to hold onto her memory, he becomes obsessed with a small painting that eventually leads him into the criminal underworld.

As he grows up, Theo learns to navigate between the elite social circles of the wealthy and the dusty antique store where he works. However, his attachment to the painting continues to draw him into a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal.

The Goldfinch is a haunting odyssey that takes readers on a journey through present-day America. It’s a riveting drama that combines unforgettable characters with heart-pounding suspense, creating an addictive triumph that explores the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and fate.

About the Author

Adam Johnson, a San Francisco writer, was born in South Dakota and raised in Arizona. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Arizona State University in 1992.

Later, he pursued his passion for writing and completed his Masters in Fine Arts from the writing program at McNeese State University in 1996. In 2000, he obtained his PhD in English from Florida State University.

Apart from being a writer, Johnson is an associate professor in creative writing at Stanford University. He founded the Stanford Graphic Novel Project and has been recognized as “one of the nation’s most influential and imaginative college professors.” His work has been published in various literary magazines such as Tin House, Esquire, and Paris Review.

Johnson is the author of a short story collection and a novel called The Orphan Master’s Son, which won the California Book Award. His most recent novel, Fortune Smiles, was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Editoral Review

Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson is a collection of six short stories that won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2015. Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who is known for his strikingly original and daring works.

Fortune Smiles is not an exception. The book deals with the themes of technology, love, freedom, and humanity in a dystopian world where the characters struggle to find meaning and purpose.

In the first story, “Nirvana,” a man named Mr. Han is a defector from North Korea who has fled to South Korea, but his life is still haunted by his past. He resorts to using a stolen computer to find his wife and child, but what he discovers is not quite what he expected.

In the second story, “Hurricane Anonymous,” a man named Callie embarks on an unconventional plan to save his wife, who has been diagnosed with cancer. The story is a vivid portrayal of the desperation and hope that comes with facing death.

“The Orphan Master’s Son,” the third story, takes place in North Korea and follows the life of a man named Pak Jun Do. Jun Do goes from being a soldier to becoming a kidnapper for the state, and eventually, he finds himself impersonating a North Korean official. The story highlights the dystopian nature of North Korea, its propaganda machinery, and the hardships its people endure.

In “George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine,” a former East German prison warden, Klaus, is faced with the memories of his past when the prisoner he once tortured comes back to him. Klaus struggles with accepting the atrocities he committed in the past, his role in the East German government, and the guilt that weighs him down.

In the fifth story, “Interesting Facts,” a sex offender undergoes an experimental treatment, which involves implanting a device that prevents him from acting on his impulses. The story brings up questions about freedom of choice, the limits of science, and the moral challenge of providing justice to sex offenders.

Finally, in the last story, “Dark Meadow,” a couple tries to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which wreaked havoc on their home and their relationship. The story explores the themes of trauma, loss, and the way natural disasters can change people’s lives forever.

Overall, Fortune Smiles is a masterful work that showcases Johnson’s incredible literary talents. The stories are powerful, evocative, and thought-provoking.

Johnson’s writing style is both lucid and lyrical. He seamlessly blends elements of science fiction, dystopian writing, and literary fiction to make a work that’s both visionary and insightful.

The book’s only limitation is that some of the stories might leave the reader with unanswered questions, such as the fate of Mr. Han’s family, or what happened to Callie’s wife after the hurricane. However, these open-ended narratives may also be seen as a strength in their ability to prompt readers to ponder and draw their own conclusions.

In conclusion, Fortune Smiles is a must-read for anyone who enjoys compelling and thought-provoking stories. The book is particularly relevant today, given the political and social turmoil that characterizes our current era.

Johnson’s work is also an excellent reminder of the power of literature to highlight the human condition and spark meaningful conversations about the world we live in. As such, The Washington Post gives this book a five-star rating, undoubtedly one of the best books of its genre.

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