Pachinko (Compact Disc)

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Staff Reviews

This 2017 National Book Award finalist is the multi-generation story of a Korean family. The immigrant experience has become a global issue in the past few decades, and this novel focuses on a particular time and place - Korea and Japan during most of the 20th century - to illustrate aspects of the immigrant experience that are also reflected in today's news. The primary focus of the novel is Sunja, whose parents run a boarding house on the Korean island of Yeongdo, where, under Japanese colonial rule, Koreans have become second class citizens. When Sunja is befriended and then seduced (and impregnated) by a wealthy Korean business man who lives in Japan, her honor is salvaged by a Christian pastor who is one of the family's boarders.They marry and immigrate to Japan where Sunja's husband becomes pastor of a Korean church. Times are tough for Koreans in Japan (remember the "garlic eaters" epithet in Shogun?), and Sunja's husband is thrown in jail for not worshipping the emperor. Years later, the wealthy Korean business man who fathered Sunja's first child, reappears in her life, revealing that he has been keeping an eye on her and their son since she came to Japan. He continues to take care of her family during the second world war and afterwards, care that is not always welcomed by the family members, who struggle on their own to find their way in a culture that demeans them. Pachinko is the game of pinball that is played for money in gambling parlors, usually run by Korean gangsters in Japan. Sunja's sons both get involved with Pachinko, which is something of a metaphor for the lives of Korean immigrants in Japan. The author focuses on significant events in the lives of the family, skipping over several years at a time, and combining spare prose with vivid descriptions of minute details with the effect that the novel doesn't have the feel of a heavy epic. It would make for an excellent book club choice. Recommended.

— Valerie

February 2017 Indie Next List

“A father's gentle nature, a mother's sacrifice, a daughter's trust, and a son's determination are the cornerstones of this grand, multilayered saga. Pachinko follows one family through an ever-changing cultural landscape, from 1910 Korea to 1989 Japan. As the bonds of family are put to the test in the harsh realities of their world, Sunja and those she holds dear manage to carve themselves a place to call home with hard work, self sacrifice, and a little kimchi. Through it all is a message about love, faith, and the deep-rooted bonds of family. Min Jin Lee gives us a phenomenal story about one family's struggle that resonates with us today. It will take hold of you and not let go!”
— Jennifer Steele (E), Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Top Ten

“Min Jin Lee has given us a treasure. Pachinko is one of those rare novels that changes your perception of history. The characters are complex and fascinating, and the setting is so beautifully drawn that I felt I was right there with them in Korea, Japan, and the U.S. Lee illuminates the history of Koreans during and after World War II, but, more than that, she brings us a haunting yet beautiful story of family, devotion, lies, politics, and, of course, the game of pachinko.”
— Elaine Petrocelli, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

Product Details
ISBN: 9781478945482
ISBN-10: 1478945486
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: February 7th, 2017
Language: English