Author: Min Jin Lee
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I’ve been wanting to read Pachinko ever since one of my book club friends recommended it to me, and unfortunately, I had to return it to the library the first time around. Determined to discover what all of the fuss was about, I reordered it, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while. As soon as I was finished with The Whisper Man, I dove in, not sure what to expect, because I’ve never read any of Lee’s previous work before. Pachinko is nothing less than historical fiction at its finest: it tells the story of four generations of a Korean family, beginning with the occupation of Korea by the Japanese and ending in the 1980s. This book was a meaty, epic family saga, told with wisdom and tenderness and chronicles a period of sixty years. I loved all of the characters, the pacing was breakneck; the prose was absolutely gorgeous but brutal, as if gouged into the page with a scalpel. I was spellbound, even as my heart broke and my eyes ran with tears. This is one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait to read more of Min Jin Lee’s work!
The story begins with a young Korean woman named Sunja, who, after a fling with a Japanese businessman, becomes pregnant. Scrambling to salvage what is left of her soiled honor over a first love, a Christian minister offers to marry her, and the couple leaves Korea for Osaka, Japan. What follows is the fracturing of the family, both from outside forces and within, over a period of years. It was painful, real, and offered a perspective on a time in world history that I knew very little about. I loved all of the characters, and one of my favorite parts of this novel was seeing the two countries of Japan and Korea change as the story went on. I also adored the way that Lee depicted the blatant racism and prejudice against Koreans, some of which still happens today, unfortunately. This book was nothing less than a bittersweet gem, and Lee has cemented her place in my heart as one of my favorite authors with Pachinko. It helped me learn, broke my heart, made me cry, and made me think, and isn’t that the whole point of a great story?
Pachinko was a fantastic novel that opened my eyes to the cruelty that colonialism and imperialism has wrought upon the globe, and I can surely say that I will never forget it; this book may be the magnum opus of Lee’s body of work, and I can’t wait to read more of her novels; it’s been over a week since I finished Pachinko, and I still feel stunned, like I was punched in the stomach and had the wind knocked out of me. I will never forget this beautifully wrought, sad tale of a family torn apart at the seams by tragedy and circumstance. The bottom line: Rich, detailed, bittersweet and brutal, I loved Pachinko! Next on deck: It’s Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell!