Tag Archives: Korea

Review: Pachinko

Pachinko

Pachinko
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.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: Please Look After Mom

Please Look After Mom

Please Look After Mom
By Kyung-Sook Shin
Vintage, Paperback, 9780307739513, April 2012, 272pp.

The Short of It:

The sacrifices that a mother makes for her children and husband are not fully realized until she goes missing.

The Rest of It:

Sometimes you read a book and it stays with you for a very long time. Please Look After Mom is one such book.

Sixty-nine year old So-nyo is with her husband at a Seoul rail station when they become separated from each other. Suddenly, days have passed and she has not been found. As the family gathers to post flyers, each of them find themselves questioning the life she’s lived and the sacrifices she’s made. As their search continues and the days pass without any news, they discover things about their mother that they never knew and it dawns on them that the severe headaches she complained of and the lapses in memory were perhaps more serious than she let on.

This book hit me hard. As a daughter, I just kept thinking of my own mom who passed away late last year and how so many things were left unsaid between us. Mental illness and addiction took center stage and I was left to dream about a mother I could never have. But then you look at this book from a mother’s perspective and you can certainly see why she did the things that she did. I’m telling you, this book grabbed me from all directions and it nearly caused me to “ugly cry” and that’s saying a lot.

Parts of the story are told using a second person point of view which always throws me off. Once I got used to it and how it was used to tell the story, it just felt right for the author to share the story that way. There’s an intimacy to it that leaves you feeling a little uncomfortable, which in this case wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling. It just really got me thinking about mothers, children, marriage and everything in between.

I can’t even adequately tell you how this book made me feel because it affected me on so many levels but it was a really good read and very different from what I’ve been reading lately. I’m so glad my book club chose it for our May meeting. Looking forward to the discussion.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.