Author: Min Jin Lee
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: February 7, 2017
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "Pachinko follows
one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s
Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose
unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover,
Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and
bring her to Japan.
So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional
family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of
history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members
are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of
faith, family, and identity."
My Two Cents:
"Pachinko" is a sweeping family epic that tells the story of Sunja, a young woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock in the early 1900s. This is a particularly precarious position for a young woman so when a pastor offers to marry Sunja and take her away from everything she knows in Korea to a place she has never been before, Japan. This is only the beginning of the story. At over 500 pages, it would be easy for a book to fall into the boring/ drags on category but that does not happen with this book. I was totally engrossed in the story of Sunja and her family that I would have happily read more and the book already covers about 90 years. This is a book that will enthrall historical fiction lovers and lovers of family stories!
The characters in this book are wonderful. The book goes through how Sunja forms a new close knit family in a new place and cuts out a living for herself. She grows to love her husband, Baek, and they have another son in addition to the one she was pregnant with when she came to Japan. They live with Baek's brother and his wife. They form a safe harbor in a new place. Each member of the family is rendered with great detail so that they feel very vivid. I loved reading about all of the different things this family goes through. They live through the lead up to and the occurrence of World War II in Japan and have a fascinating perspective that kept me engaged. I loved reading about all of the different things that the family witnesses.
The setting of the book is great. I love books set in Japan but the fact that this book is set around a Korean family that lived in Japan was especially interesting. The family lives in Japan during a time that the country was rapidly changing. Not only do they live through the world wars but the decades after where Japan is rebuilding and finding its footing. The detail of the different cities in the book were interesting. I loved all of the detail that the author included.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book was the idea of the family as outsiders. The family is not embraced when they move to Japan. They are the ultimate outsiders. They are discriminated against because of being Korean. They aren't given the same opportunities that native Japanese are given. They struggle to figure out what would be acceptable for them to make a living from as outsiders. To add more interest, eventually one of Sunja's sons is able to pass as Japanese, which added another level of intrigue for me.
This book is a vast story that will pull you in from the very beginning. A treat for historical fiction lovers, the details of this book will stick with you long after the final page.