Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

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. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow, I intensely loved this book. When I finished, my first thought was that it reminded me of Yanagihara’s A Little Life in its scope of following a few individuals over the course of their lives – but that’s where the similarities end. Whereas A Little Life is glorified misery porn (and I say this as someone who loved that book too), Pachinko is quietly hopeful and uplifting. Whereas A Little Life left me bawling on my bed for a solid half hour after finishing, Pachinko made me feel introspective and ancient and wise, having experienced the gamut of human emotion within its pages.

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