It took me 200-300 pages before I think I understood the opening of the novel, which is the title of this post. It felt tritely deep, or falsely deep. But it makes sense now that I have the full scope of the novel.
I would have to imagine I won’t read a better novel published this year, this year. I might very well read better novels, but this could very well be the best novel published in the year 2017.
The novel itself spans eight decades in the life a singular family, using the birth and lifespan of Sunja, a Korean woman born in 1916, as its base. Through the story Sunja falls in love with an older businessman, becomes pregnant, realizes that she cannot marry him and instead marries a traveling Christian missionary. The story goes from there. Dealing with the confluence of multiple cultures in Korea and Japan, including the strong presence of Christianity in Korea at the time, this novel traces the odd relationship among these cultures in the decades of the 20th century.
At the center of everything, but not in a glaring kind of obvious way is pachinko, the gambling pinball game that has a reputation for being mob-run in Japan. Using pachinko as the heart of this novel allows for the varying paths the different generations of characters find themselves, some ending up in fortune, others in sadness.
Overall, this is an incredibly strong, readable novel that has heart and pathos and humor and sadness. It has both depth and breadth. Like the British novels it references about midway through, it gives a little of everything within it, even if you can’t exactly say what it is about.
It’s about 500 pages and I read it less than 24 hours because of the way it grabbed me. It’s also an incredibly beautiful book to look at and hold.