Pachinkoby Min Jin Lee
In this bestselling, page-turning saga, four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from a home they never knew.
"There could only be a few winners, and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky/strong>/strong>
In this bestselling, page-turning saga, four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from a home they never knew.
"There could only be a few winners, and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones."
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.
Lee’s (Free Food for Millionaires) latest novel is a sprawling and immersive historical work that tells the tale of one Korean family’s search for belonging, exploring questions of history, legacy, and identity across four generations. In the Japanese-occupied Korea of the 1910s, young Sunja accidentally becomes pregnant, and a kind, tubercular pastor offers to marry her and act as the child’s father. Together, they move away from Busan and begin a new life in Japan. In Japan, Sunja and her Korean family suffer from seemingly endless discrimination, and yet they are also met with moments of great love and renewal. As Sunja’s children come of age, the novel reveals the complexities of family national history. What does it mean to live in someone else’s motherland? When is history a burden, and when does history lift a person up? This is a character-driven tale, but Lee also offers detailed histories that ground the story. Though the novel is long, the story itself is spare, at times brutally so. Sunja’s isolation and dislocation become palpable in Lee’s hands. Reckoning with one determined, wounded family’s place in history, Lee’s novel is an exquisite meditation on the generational nature of truly forging a home. (Feb.)
Set in Korea and Japan, Lee's follow-up to her acclaimed debut, Free Food for Millionaires, is a beautifully crafted story of love, loss, determination, luck, and perseverance. Sunja is the only surviving child of humble fisherman Hoonie (himself born with a cleft palate and twisted foot) and wife YangJin in the early 1900s. Losing her father at age 13, Sunja appears to be a dutiful daughter by working at the boardinghouse with her mother, only to surprise the family three years later by becoming pregnant by an older married man with children. She saves face when a minister at the boardinghouse, ten years older than Sunja, offers to marry her and take her to Japan with him to start a new life. What follows is a gripping multigenerational story that culminates in 1989. There are surprising twists, especially when Sunja crosses paths with her former lover while living in Japan. VERDICT Lee's skillful development of her characters and story lines will draw readers into the work. Those who enjoy historical fiction with strong characterizations will not be disappointed as they ride along on the emotional journeys offered in the author's latest page-turner. [See Prepub Alert, 8/8/16.]—Shirley Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA
An absorbing saga of 20th-century Korean experience, seen through the fate of four generations.Lee (Free Food for Millionaires, 2007) built her debut novel around families of Korean-Americans living in New York. In her second novel, she traces the Korean diaspora back to the time of Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910. “History has failed us,” she writes in the opening line of the current epic, “but no matter.” She begins her tale in a village in Busan with an aging fisherman and his wife whose son is born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot. Nonetheless, he is matched with a fine wife, and the two of them run the boardinghouse he inherits from his parents. After many losses, the couple cherishes their smart, hardworking daughter, Sunja. When Sunja gets pregnant after a dalliance with a persistent, wealthy married man, one of their boarders—a sickly but handsome and deeply kind pastor—offers to marry her and take her away with him to Japan. There, she meets his brother and sister-in-law, a woman lovely in face and spirit, full of entrepreneurial ambition that she and Sunja will realize together as they support the family with kimchi and candy operations through war and hard times. Sunja’s first son becomes a brilliant scholar; her second ends up making a fortune running parlors for pachinko, a pinball-like game played for money. Meanwhile, her first son’s real father, the married rich guy, is never far from the scene, a source of both invaluable help and heartbreaking woe. As the destinies of Sunja’s children and grandchildren unfold, love, luck, and talent combine with cruelty and random misfortune in a deeply compelling story, with the troubles of ethnic Koreans living in Japan never far from view. An old-fashioned epic whose simple, captivating storytelling delivers both wisdom and truth.
Included in The Millions' "Most Anticipated: The Great 2017 Book Preview"
One of Elle's "25 Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017"
BBC: "Ten Books to Read in 2017"
One of BookRiot's "Most Anticipated Books of 2017"
One of Nylon's "50 Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017"
One of Entertainment Weekly's Best New Books
"Stunning... Despite the compelling sweep of time and history, it is the characters and their tumultuous lives that propel the narrative... A compassionate, clear gaze at the chaotic landscape of life itself. In this haunting epic tale, no one story seems too minor to be briefly illuminated. Lee suggests that behind the facades of wildly different people lie countless private desires, hopes and miseries, if we have the patience and compassion to look and listen."The New York Times Book Review
"In 1930s Korea, an earnest young woman, abandoned by the lover who has gotten her pregnant, enters into a marriage of convenience that will take her to a new life in Japan. Thus begins Lee's luminous new novel PACHINKO--a powerful meditation on what immigrants sacrifice to achieve a home in the world. PACHINKO confirms Lee's place among our finest novelists."Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This Is How You Lose Her
"A deep, broad, addictive history of a Korean family in Japan enduring and prospering through the 20th century."David Mitchell, Guardian, New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks
"Astounding. The sweep of Dickens and Tolstoy applied to a 20th century Korean family in Japan. Min Jin Lee's PACHINKO tackles all the stuff most good novels do-family, love, cabbage-but it also asks questions that have never been more timely. What does it mean to be part of a nation? And what can one do to escape its tight, painful, familiar bonds?"
"Both for those who love Korea, as well as for those who know no more than Hyundai, Samsung and kimchi, this extraordinary book will prove a revelation of joy and heartbreak. I could not stop turning the pages, and wished this most poignant of sagas would never end. Min Jin Lee displays a tenderness and wisdom ideally matched to an unforgettable tale that she relates just perfectly."Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman and Korea: A Walk through the Land of Miracles
"PACHINKO is elegant and soulful, both intimate and sweeping. This story of several generations of one Korean family in Japan is the story of every family whose parents sacrificed for their children, every family whose children were unable to recognize the cost, but it's also the story of a specific cultural struggle in a riveting time and place. Min Jin Lee has written a big, beautiful book filled with characters I rooted for and cared about and remembered after I'd read the final page."Kate Christensen, Pen/Faulkner-winning author of The Great Man and Blue Plate Special
"An exquisite, haunting epic...'moments of shimmering beauty and some glory, too,' illuminate the narrative...Lee's profound novel...is shaped by impeccable research, meticulous plotting, and empathic perception."Booklist (starred review)
"PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee is a great book, a passionate story, a novel of magisterial sweep. It's also fiendishly readable-the real-deal. An instant classic, a quick page-turner, and probably the best book of the year."
Darin Strauss, National Book Critics Circle-winning author of Half a Life: A Memoir
"The breadth and depth of challenges come through clearly, without sensationalization. The sporadic victories are oases of sweetness, without being saccharine. Lee makes it impossible not to develop tender feelings towards her characters--all of them, even the most morally compromised. Their multifaceted engagements with identity, family, vocation, racism, and class are guaranteed to provide your most affecting sobfest of the year."BookRiot, "Most Anticipated Books of 2017"
"An absorbing saga of 20th-century Korean experience... the destinies of Sunja's children and grandchildren unfold, love, luck, and talent combine with cruelty and random misfortune in a deeply compelling story, with the trouble of ethnic Koreans living in Japan never far from view. An old-fashioned epic whose simple, captivating storytelling delivers both wisdom and truth."Kirkus (Starred Review)
"A sprawling and immersive historical work... Reckoning with one determined, wounded family's place in history, Lee's novel is an exquisite meditation on the generational nature of truly forging a home."Publishers Weekly
"If proof were needed that one family's story can be the story of the whole world, then PACHINKO offers that proof. Min Jin Lee's novel is gripping from start to finish, crossing cultures and generations with breathtaking power. PACHINKO is a stunning achievement, full of heart, full of grace, full of truth."Erica Wagner, author of Ariel's Gift and Seizure
"A beautifully crafted story of love, loss, determination, luck, and perseverance...Lee's skillful development of her characters and story lines will draw readers into the work. Those who enjoy historical fiction with strong characterizations will not be disappointed as they ride along on the emotional journeys offered in the author's latest page-turner."Library Journal (starred review)
"Brilliant, subtle...gripping...What drives this novel is the magisterial force of Lee's characterization...As heartbreaking as it is compelling, PACHINKO is a timely meditation on all that matters to humanity in an age of mass migration and uncertainty."South China Morning Post Magazine
"Everything I want in a family saga novel, a deep dive immersion into a complete world full of rich and complex lives to follow as they tumble towards fate and fortune...PACHINKO will break your heart in all the right ways."Vela Magazine
"Gorgeous."Nylon.com, "50 Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017"
"Expansive, elegant and utterly absorbing...Combining the detail of a documentary with the empathy of the best fiction, it's a sheer delight."The Daily Mail
"Deftly brings its large ensemble of characters alive."The Financial Times
"A social novel in the Dickensian vein...frequently heartbreaking."USA Today
"Spanning nearly 100 years and moving from Korea at the start of the 20th century to pre- and postwar Osaka and, finally, Tokyo and Yokohama, the novel reads like a long, intimate hymn to the struggles of people in a foreign land...Much of the novel's authority is derived from its weight of research, which brings to life everything from the fishing village on the coast of the East Sea in early 20th-century Korea to the sights and smells of the shabby Korean township of Ikaino in Osaka - the intimate, humanising details of a people striving to carve out a place for themselves in the world. Vivid and immersive, Pachinko is a rich tribute to a people that history seems intent on erasing."The Guardian (UK)
"Min Jin Lee has produced a beautifully realized saga of an immigrant family in a largely hostile land, trying to establish its own way of belonging."The Times Literary Supplement
"Lee's sweeping four-generation saga of a Korean family is an extraordinary epic, both sturdily constructed and beautiful."The San Francisco Chronicle
"Pachinko is a rich, well-crafted book as well as a page turner. Its greatest strength in this regard lies in Lee's ability to shift suddenly between perspectives. We never linger too long with a single character, constantly refreshing our point of view, giving the narrative dimension and depth. Add to that her eye and the prose that captures setting so well, and it would not be surprising to see Pachinko on a great many summer reading lists."Asian Review of Books
- Grand Central Publishing
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- 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.80(d)
Meet the Author
Min Jin Lee's debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, was one of the "Top 10 Novels of the Year" for The Times (London), NPR's Fresh Air, and USA Today. Her short fiction has been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts. Her writings have appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, The Times (London), Vogue, Travel+Leisure, Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, and Food & Wine. Her essays and literary criticism have been anthologized widely. She served as a columnist for the Chosun Ilbo, the leading paper of South Korea. She lives in New York with her family.
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A page turner of breadth and depth, of fully developed and interesting characters. A light on the experience of people lost in the twists and shuffle of history that are nearly invisible to Americns.
Pachinko is an excellent read from cover to cover. The characters come alive, the plot is sturdy and subtle, and the writing is incisive. It is about Koreans in Japan. If you are Korean or Japanese, you probably know this story, but aside from the occasional newspaper article or television report about “comfort women”, for example, I knew little of the enmity of the two countries. How odd that we lump them together in our minds when they are such deeply sworn cultural enemies! Pachinko did not leave me chastising myself for ignorance though, it left me grateful for the insight. Since I am neither Korean nor Japanese, I read this as a cautionary tale. I am American, and inside America, we have the African population and the Native American population who have been treated as cruelly and hypocritically as the Koreans in Japan. The comparison is not always apt – there are a lot of differences between the two situations. But in the end, human beings have an irrational need to feel better than others, and that has caused us no end of suffering for no reason at all other than atavistic ego. When you have been callously mistreated, you have several choices – jump lemming-like off a cliff, outwit your rivals at their own game, or stay so far below the radar that nobody notices you. I doubt that Min Jin Lee began her book as a didactic outline for tolerating prejudice and cruelty – there is way too much humanity in it for that. Her knowledge of both cultures is deep, and whenever a person gets to know another person deeply, enemy or friend, it is impossible to view them without at least a grain of compassion. Her story is rich with detail, perception, understanding, and conscience. I haven’t written much about the writing style because its transparency, skill, management of time and language, including the insertion of Korean terms which become familiar as the story progresses, is masterful. Don’t worry. You won’t put it down. Lee is also a wonderful reader of her own work, and if you have a chance to hear her at a venue near you, don’t pass it up. She is a person of massive intelligence and humor.
When I was a child, my friend's father had a pachinko machine at his house. We used to play with it, and I found it endlessly fascinating. When I saw this book, I picked it up based on the cover and title alone. In some ways, Pachinko reminds me of a book I recently read, The Woman Who Breathed Two World. While that book was just ok for me, I thought Pachinko was much more enjoyable. I was interested in the life of Sunja and her family. I had no idea of the discrimination faced by Koreans living in Japan. Even those who are third or fourth generation born in Japan are still thought of as Koreans. It seems really shameful. Pachinko follows the life of Sunja from her birth in Korea, until she is an old woman in Japan. She marries, has children, becomes a grandmother. I found it all fascinating. I enjoyed the writing style and felt invested in the characters. The pachinko in the title comes from the job Sunja's son works at. He is an employee at a pachinko parlor, a type of gambling parlor. In Japan, many of the pachinko parlors are owned by Koreans, and it is considered a disreputable profession. The life of Sunja and her family is filled with hardship. I found myself rooting for her family, hoping they could find happiness. If you like multigenerational sagas, I think you will enjoy this book. I stayed up late to finish it, that is how good it is. I had to know how Sunja's story would turn out.
Well written and flowing, I thouroughly enjoyed this author
REVIEW: I loved this novel. I was a little daunted to find that it ran to almost 500 pages and I found myself so enraptured by this saga that I finished it in a day (I came out bleary eyed, but I did it)! I am not normally a fan of anything that has to do with relatively modern history (I was a toddler during the Korean War, but still) and even family sagas usually leave me a little daunted -but once I picked up this book I couldn’t put it down. This book made it effortless for me to actually learn something and to see it from these peoples’ perspectives was just emotionally both draining and uplifting. This book was emotionally draining, a revelation, intelligent, not ‘in your face’ religious, educational, romantic ( sort of), filled with love and was written in such a way that I could actually see pictures in my mind of what the characters looked like. I don’t think I have had a book fascinate me in such a long time. I concur with many reviewers that the style of the book changed as you neared the conclusion -but it was simple for me to see why and I appreciate that the author took the time to make these distinctions. We went from one changing generation to another and when the author hit the 60’s and 70’s she made sure to change the tone for the younger generation to show these changes in the world -the sexual revolution, a stronger women’s liberation, a country coming back into its own etc. I highly recommend this book to those who like family saga’s, 20th century history and high drama books.
This book was beautifully written. I find that I usually do not love the main protagonist in a novel, but in this one, I loved all of the characters. They were perfect in every way and the story was amazing. I finished the book in just two days, and it's one of those books where I wished it kept on going. I highly recommend to anyone looking for a beautiful story, written over 4 generations and rich with history.
Stories like these are my absolute favorite! I love when books start out with one person or family and continue on through many generations. These are characters and people with whom you become friends and enemies, you love and you hate them, and they become family. I wanted this story to continue indefinitely, and I suppose it does, just not within the pages of the book. This story is rich with history and a perspective that you rarely see, and like many historical novels, I end up wanting to research more about the subject. Often I take notes when I’m reading a book, thoughts that strike me that I know I want to put into a review. There were no notes while I was reading this book, I was completely and utterly engrossed and there would be no stopping. This is by far the best book I have read in a long time, I imagine it will have lasting effects and I will recall it often. I was very inspired to try the different foods that are often featured, such as barley tea and I will be attempting to make kimchi in the very near future, and yes, there will be pictures. Even though I know this book was a long time in the making, I sincerely hope there are more from this author.