by Min Jin Lee


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A New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year and National Book Award finalist, Pachinko is an "extraordinary epic" of four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family as they fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan ( San Francisco Chronicle).


Roxane Gay's Favorite Book of 2017, Washington Post


"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.

*Includes reading group guide*

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594075592
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 11/14/2017
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 1,079
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Min Jin Lee is a recipient of fellowships in Fiction from the Guggenheim Foundation (2018) and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard (2018-2019). Her novel Pachinko (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, a runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and one of the New York Times' "Ten Best Books of 2017." A New York Times bestseller, Pachinko was also one of the "Ten Best Books" of the year for BBC and the New York Public Library, and a "best international fiction" pick for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In total, it was on over seventy-five best books of the year lists, including NPR, PBS, and CNN, and it was a selection for Now Read This , the joint book club of PBS NewsHour and the New York Times. Pachinko will be translated into twenty-seven languages. Lee's debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (2007) was one of the best books of the year for the Times of London, NPR's Fresh Air, and USA Today, and it was a national bestseller. Her writings have appeared in the New Yorker, NPR's Selected Shorts, One Story, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, Cond é Nast Traveler, the Times of London, and the Wall Street Journal. Lee served three consecutive seasons as a Morning Forum columnist of the Chosun Ilbo of South Korea. In 2018, she was named as one of Adweek's Creative 100 for being one of the "ten writers and editors who are changing the national conversation," and one of the Guardian's Frederick Douglass 200. She received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Monmouth College. She will be a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College from 2019-2022.

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Pachinko 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One if the best books I've read in a long time. I looked forward to coming home from work to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and flowing, I thouroughly enjoyed this author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It can be a bit lengthy at times and has too many outside unrelated characters thrown in, but overall a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
excellent on multiple levels thank you ms. lee
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a good book! I just couldn't stop reading it. I love how all the characters are important and all have a story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was selected by my book club. Long book but very enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well I enjoyed reading the story and related and the characters were interesting, I felt that I was reading a book of short stories rather than one cohesive story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written book about the sad plight of those of Korean descent living in Japan even if they were born there. The characters are unforgettable; the setting enlightening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book brings to light that no matter where you go racism is alive. It truly does give you something to think about and how it is dealt with. Open your mind and learn for this excellent work.
Darcy714 More than 1 year ago
Covering a time period spanning 1910 to 1989, Pachinko is indeed a saga, but a compelling one. It is difficult to summarize due to the many characters and their stories, but essentially Pachinko follows one particular Korean family with a central character named Sunja. The storyline covers family life, first love, affairs, hidden sexuality and the incredible oppression of the Korean people both in their occupied home country and in Japan where many immigrated hoping to make a better life. Though I enjoyed following the different characters and their stories throughout, what I found the most interesting in Pachinko, is as others have noted, this unknown history of occupation. I enjoy reading history and historical fiction, but I didn't know Japan occupied Korea at any point, nor of the ghettos Koreans were confined to when trying to make it in Japan. Min Jin Lee does an excellent job of chronicling this history and making it more personal through individual characters. Though I rarely read sagas, I found this well worth the read and loved how much I learned. The writing is similar to Lisa See's books aside from the fact that it spans a longer period of time and is every bit as educational and enjoyable. A wonderful blend of history and fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was immediately drawn into the characters and love who they become in time although some times so shockinly tragic, it's life- The family bond is so strong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book took me on an unexpected journey to a world so unfair and often cruel. But the humanity, compassion, and realities of life give great honor to the everyday people we all tend to ignore. Beautifully written.
jcmonson More than 1 year ago
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.
Dianne57 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great book. I didn't want it to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved how well the story was told. Concise without the need for extra words everything was said beautifully. I felt as if my immigrant story about duality and acceptance was being told.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story invokes such empathy for the characters, you cannot help reading more and more, you become so invested in their fate. The author paints their lives with such an intimate design, this is truly a work of art, infused with emotion and history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting subject. I never really knew that the Koreans were so badly treated by the Japanese. You don't realize the discrimination and it isn't something that you read about.
LeeAnna Keith More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book that brings a bygone era to life.
HalKid2 9 days ago
Despite the title, this is NOT a story about a popular Japanese arcade game. Instead, it is a multi-generational story of one family that the author uses to explore the complex relationship between native-born Koreans and native-born Japanese. Beginning in Korea in 1910 with a couple of peasant farmers (just as Japan is about to occupy the Korean Peninsula), author Min Jin Lee traces their descendants across seven generations (until 1989) as they work toward bettering their lives in Japan, using opportunities provided by religion, education, and business. However, this is not a typical rags-to-riches story. Because at the heart of every relationship each family member has along the way is the deeply rooted prejudice native Japanese have toward non-natives. Even after they have lived in Japan for many generations. Japanese prejudice against Korean seems particularly acute, perhaps because so MANY Koreans moved to Japan, many because of the Korean War, and wound up doing many of the jobs Japanese weren't interested in. (sound familiar?) The discrimination they experienced was and still is manifested in attitude, housing, employment, custom, and law -- establishing, in effect, a class system which limits the kind of life non-native can establish in Japan. On the plus side I learned a great deal about both Korean and Japanese cultures including their abiding respect for elders, the unfailing importance of politeness, much ingrained sexism, and the value placed on extended family. I found the story of Sunja -- the teenage daughter of poor innkeepers who unknowingly gets involved with a shady businessman -- particularly compelling. On the minus side, as Lee began to tell the later stories of younger family members, I felt the book lost some focus. Instead of a single central character I came to care about, there were many more stories threads to track. And the chapters often skipped years so I began to feel that I was following the family saga through a series of vignettes, instead of reading one continuous story. Nevertheless, a very worthwhile and educational novel.
Donna Gardner 3 months ago
i recommend this book as someone recommended it to me. read during mynrecuperration form joint replacement i was able to pick up the book multiple times per day to continue my immersion i to the generations of this Korean family. great read.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Absolutely breath taking and very moving! A look into a little bit of history and how people have to survive.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely enthralling. Savored every page hoping that it would go on and on. One of my very favorite books ever.