Published February 2017 by Grand Central Publishing
Source: purchased for my Nook
"There could only be a few winners, and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones."
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant—and that her lover is married—she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters—strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis—survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.
This was the last book I finished in 2017 and what a great finale for the year.
"Pachinko is about outsiders, minorities and the politically disenfranchised. But it is so much more besides. Each time the novel seems to find its locus—Japan's colonization of Korea, World War II as experienced in East Asia, Christianity, family, love, the changing role of women—it becomes something else. It becomes even more than it was." - New York Times, Krys LeeI've struggled trying to describe why this book is so wonderful. This piece of Krys Lee's review for The New York Times explains why. Min Jin Lee has incorporated so much of a history I was unaware of but this is primarily a book about the members of a Korean family forced to build a life for themselves in a country that doesn't really want them and unable to return to their home. Pachinko is an unpredictable game of chance, much like the lives of Lee's characters.
Pachinko is beautifully written but difficult to read. Min Jin Lee's characters are nuanced and complex people who struggle to survive both physically and emotionally. It is both a sprawling sage, spanning seventy years, and an intimate tale. These are characters I will not soon forget: Sunja, who fights for the survival of her family and suffers terribly in so many ways; Koh Hansu, who is both a morally corrupt man and a man who loves deeply; the farmer who saves the family during WWII but who also wishes for the war to continue until he can make enough money to fulfill his grandfather's wish; Noa, Sunja's eldest son who struggles with his personal and ethnic history.
One day, I will start rereading the books that have stuck with me the longest. I have a feeling Pachinko will be one of them.