Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
Finished on April 23, took 17 days to read
5 stars on Goodreads
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating 2/3 Historical Fiction
Pachinko is a beautiful and heart-breaking book. The plot extends over multiple decades of one woman’s life: Sunja. Sunja was born in Japanese-occupied Korea, but eventually marries and moves to Japan prior to the outbreak of World War Two. We follow Sunja and her family (four generations) all the way through the 1980s and their lives in Japan.
I was completely ignorant of how Koreans were treated in Japan, even after independence. This book was incredibly eye-opening to me. The outright prejudice against Koreans in Japan was overwhelming at the time, affecting Koreans ability to make a living, get an education, marry, or own a home. Min Jin Lee wrote a novel with an exploding and ever-changing world as a backdrop, but our focus was this beautiful and unconventional family. Unfortunately, at the heart of that family is very serious lie which affects every relationship.
A side note on the game of pachinko. It is a gambling game, and in Korea and Japan there were many Pachinko parlors. Those parlors were looked down upon as second-class or part of organized crime. I had not heard of the game pachinko until this novel. However, the game oddly becomes the backbone of Sunja’s family, and there is no escaping its influence on their livelihoods.
This book is long and took me more than two weeks to read, but it was worth every second. Min Jin Lee has a gorgeous way with words and I look forward to reading her other novels.
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