- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (November 14, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781455563920
- ISBN-13: 978-1455563920
- ASIN: 1455563927
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,908 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) Paperback – November 14, 2017
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"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?"―Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Little Failure and Super Sad True Love Story
"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 Award-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"
About 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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I have found that it is easier to explain why I don’t like a particular book or to point out a book’s flaws than it is to explain why I absolutely loved one. It’s like explaining why a rainbow is beautiful. I can talk about how the colors are pretty or how it made me feel, but there is something about rainbows, sunsets, and the best works of art that transcends easy explanation. You just have to experience them. Read Pachinko.
The format of the book is straightforward. It proceeds chronologically from about 1900-ish to 1989 and follows various characters that belong to one family. It never sprawls out of control – there aren’t 37 second-cousins that you will have to keep track of – and there aren’t flash-backs and flash-forwards that could potentially cause confusion. There are occasional Japanese or Korean words sprinkled around, but their meaning is apparent from the context. I don’t speak a lick of those languages, and I followed everything without ever having to consult a dictionary. The prose is simple and straightforward, generally consisting of short, direct sentences. There’s not a lot of fluff. Therefore, the book reads quickly, despite being an almost 500 page family saga about sexism, fate, hard work, destiny, chance, war, poverty, racism, familial obligations, identity, immigration, citizenship, language, education, opportunity, community, and faith.
The main characters are diverse, interesting, flawed, and generally fundamentally good people. The characters are not very Dynamic (at least in an obvious way), but they weren’t really intended to be. This isn’t a story populated with characters that have grand, clear character arcs. This made them feel more realistic to me. How many people do you know that are on a Hero’s Journey? Most people I know just try to keep their heads down, work to put food on the table, and hope for good opportunities for their children.
I’ve said before that I am a fan of history, and I was generally ignorant of Korean culture in Japan. Pachinko is not some dry history lesson, though. It’s as entertaining as a soap opera.
You should read it.
The tale follows Sunja and her family for four generations. I found the first half, which dealt mainly with Sunja and her sister-in-law who became her best friend, more engrossing than the latter half that was about her descendants. That section was interesting, but the stark contrast between Sunja, her mother, and sister-in-law and their husbands, and the younger generations was jolting. I just found the women more interesting than the men. They are so strong, mentally and physically. But their lives are very circumscribed compared to the men. The men are city people; the women rural in outlook even when living in the city.
As Koreans in Japan, they are considered visitors even when they were born there. There were jobs they could never have; it was illegal to rent to them. When a boy turns fourteen, he has to register, be fingerprinted and interviewed, and he has to ask for permission to remain in Japan, even though he was born there and has never been to Korea. This process will be repeated every three years. And this was in the 1970s, not the 1870s. Getting Japanese citizenship was extremely difficult. But Sunja’s family does get ahead, attaining a comfortable living.
This novel is both an absorbing tale of family dynamics and a fascinating look at another culture and time. It’s a big book, but I read it quickly, unable to put it down. The characters are so well developed that I really cared about them, especially Sunja and her sister-in-law. Sometimes I wanted to strangle one or another of the characters, because they are just totally realized humans. Excellent book.