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: 9781455563937
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 02/07/2017
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 75,701
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.80(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, Condé 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. 55 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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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.
Anonymous 26 days ago
Absolutely breath taking and very moving! A look into a little bit of history and how people have to survive.
Anonymous 29 days ago
Anonymous 9 months ago
Absolutely enthralling. Savored every page hoping that it would go on and on. One of my very favorite books ever.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Absolutely loved this book! Could not put it down and I found myself reading into the wee hours of the night. A great blend of historical accounts, family generations and conflict. If you're a fan of The Joy Luck Club, then you will enjoy this read. Don't be put off by the thick of it, so many of the characters are beautifully developed and the cultural accuracy is beautiful.
TiBookChatter 10 months ago
Wasn’t aware of the conflict between Korea and Japan before reading this one. When Pachinko first came out, I had ZERO desire to read it although I know it was quite popular when it was released and is still on many reading lists today. My discussion group selected it though so I got myself a copy and jumped in. The story is simple really. In the early 1900s, a teenaged Sunja falls for a wealthy stranger and finds herself pregnant with his baby. Coming from a poor Korean family, she doesn’t have many options but when she finds out he is married with children, being his mistress is not one of them. Along comes Isak. A sickly minister who takes room and board at Sunja’s home. He realizes Sunja’s predicament and offers to marry her. Although she is not in love with him, she knows that this is really the only chance she’ll have at saving face and not completely dishonoring her widowed mother. The story from here on out is about this family, their extended family and how they, as Koreans try to make do in a Japan that does not want them. Oddly enough, the title of the book, Pachinko doesn’t really come into play until halfway through the book which I thought was odd. I mostly enjoyed this book but it felt long, had a lot of characters who really didn’t play key roles, and included some odd scenes centered around sex, which seemed really out of place and served no purpose. The author did a good job of describing the way poor Koreans lived and many of the characters possessed a resilience that was admirable. Those strange, interspersed sex scenes seemed to not fit the tone of the book which prevented me from loving this story. Pachinko has received much praise, but for me it was just okay. It was however, a good book to discuss, especially over a Korean meal which our hostess was kind enough to provide.