By Min Jin Lee
Grand Central Publishing, 9781455563920, November 2017, 512pp.
The Short of It:
Wasn’t aware of the conflict between Korea and Japan before reading this one.
The Rest of It:
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.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.