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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
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Pachinko (2017)

by Min Jin Lee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (126)  Spanish (1)  All languages (127)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
The Short of It:

Wasn’t aware of the conflict between Korea and Japan before reading this one.

The Rest of It:

When Pachinko first came out, I had ZERO desire to read it although I know it was quite popular when it was released and is still on many reading lists today. My discussion group selected it though so I got myself a copy and jumped in.

The story is simple really. In the early 1900s, a teenaged Sunja falls for a wealthy stranger and finds herself pregnant with his baby. Coming from a poor Korean family, she doesn’t have many options but when she finds out he is married with children, being his mistress is not one of them.

Along comes Isak. A sickly minister who takes room and board at Sunja’s home. He realizes Sunja’s predicament and offers to marry her. Although she is not in love with him, she knows that this is really the only chance she’ll have at saving face and not completely dishonoring her widowed mother.

The story from here on out is about this family, their extended family and how they, as Koreans try to make do in a Japan that does not want them. Oddly enough, the title of the book, Pachinko doesn’t really come into play until halfway through the book which I thought was odd.

I mostly enjoyed this book but it felt long, had a lot of characters who really didn’t play key roles, and included some odd scenes centered around sex, which seemed really out of place and served no purpose. The author did a good job of describing the way poor Koreans lived and many of the characters possessed a resilience that was admirable. Those strange, interspersed sex scenes seemed to not fit the tone of the book which prevented me from loving this story.

Pachinko has received much praise, but for me it was just okay. It was however, a good book to discuss, especially over a Korean meal which our hostess was kind enough to provide.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Jul 19, 2019 |
Patchinko is an intriguing metaphor for life, lots of chance influenced by skill/work. I found this a compelling read, and got through it relatively quickly, the steady somewhat distanced pace and viewpoint allowing breathing room around the intensely felt trials of life as mostly despised outsiders over almost a century. Particularly interesting was the last interaction of the Korean-Japanese and Korean-American with different issues about their identities. ( )
  quondame | Jul 14, 2019 |
Three stars for the richly drawn female characters in the story, living their best lives as Koreans in Japan. I was enamored with Sunja from the beginning. However, the book disappoints as the years progress, and the text veers from her. ( )
  Oregonpoet | Jul 12, 2019 |
Pachinko is a family epic novel about a Korean family living in Japan that follows several generations through the 20th century. The book centers around Sanju who grows up in her parent's boarding house in Korea. She is seduced by an older man, Hansu, and becomes pregnant. She then finds out that he is married and has a family in Japan. He is obviously rich and offers to support her living in Korea, sort of set her up as a second wife/mistress, but her upbringing doesn't allow her to consider that. A kind Christian man boarding with them offers to marry her and raise her child as his own if they move to Japan. She agrees. They move to Japan and live with his brother and wife who are childless.

This move to Japan sets in motion a lot of what happens to the family in subsequent generations. They face unrelenting racism and obstacles as Korean immigrants but Hansu keeps track of Sanju and appears at some of the worst times to aid the family - sometimes behind the scenes and sometimes with Sanju's approval. He tries to support his son, Noa, without revealing that he's his father. Sanju has two sons, Noa and Mazuso, who take different paths but both end up as wealthy owners of multiple pachinko parlors. Pachinko is Japanese pinball where people bet on outcomes and is a huge industry.

Too much happens in this long book to describe all of the plot, but there are lots of themes explored - racism, immigration, politics, sexism, family secrets, etc. - that add a lot to the book and keep connections between the generations. I definitely preferred the first half of the book that focused more on Sanju and her sister-in-law and their climb out of extreme poverty. I liked the book as a whole, though, an definitely recommend it to anyone who likes this sort of multigenerational work set in a different culture (well, different to me). ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 6, 2019 |
4 generation saga of Koreans who left to live in Japan and dealt with ongoing discrimination. Even though the younger generations were born in Japan, they were not citizens. They had to have South Korean passports.
Despite its reknown, I had trouble pushing through the book. One good thing is to understand how difficult life in Japan is for Korean ethnics. ( )
  bereanna | Jun 30, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lee, Min Jinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leger, PatrickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearson, BrigidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to, in strongest conjuration.
-Charles Dickens
Dedication
For Christopher and Sam
First words
History has failed us, but no matter.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.
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"A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone. PACHINKO follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity"--"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. Richly told and profoundly moving, 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."--Publisher's description.… (more)

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