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).
NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2017 * A USA TODAY TOP TEN OF 2017 * JULY PICK FOR THE PBS NEWSHOUR-NEW YORK TIMES BOOK CLUB NOW READ THIS * FINALIST FOR THE 2018DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE* WINNER OF THE MEDICI BOOK CLUB PRIZE
Roxane Gay's Favorite Book of 2017, Washington Post
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * #1 BOSTON GLOBE BESTSELLER * USA TODAY BESTSELLER * WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER * WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER
"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*
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
An immersive and compulsively readable saga, Min Jin Lee's novel follows one family for more than half a century, tracking their winding course from a seaside village in occupied Korea to gambling halls in Japan. We adore this 2017 National Book Award finalist for its beautifully realized characters, historical insights, and flawless depictions of family strife, loyalty, and love.
Lee's (Free Food for Millionaires) latest novel is a sprawling and immersive historical work that tells the tale of one Korean family's search for belonging, exploring questions of history, legacy, and identity across four generations. In the Japanese-occupied Korea of the 1910s, young Sunja accidentally becomes pregnant, and a kind, tubercular pastor offers to marry her and act as the child's father. Together, they move away from Busan and begin a new life in Japan. In Japan, Sunja and her Korean family suffer from seemingly endless discrimination, and yet they are also met with moments of great love and renewal. As Sunja's children come of age, the novel reveals the complexities of family national history. What does it mean to live in someone else's motherland? When is history a burden, and when does history lift a person up? This is a character-driven tale, but Lee also offers detailed histories that ground the story. Though the novel is long, the story itself is spare, at times brutally so. Sunja's isolation and dislocation become palpable in Lee's hands. Reckoning with one determined, wounded family's place in history, Lee's novel is an exquisite meditation on the generational nature of truly forging a home.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Three quarters excellent, last quarter bad
I am fortunate to be married to a wonderful Korean woman with a story that mirrors Pachinko. So I understand the nature of the Korean mother and their devotion and sacrifice for their family. This book was on point for the first three fourths, then it fell apart. The focus on debauchery and gratuitous sex of a younger generation was both suspect and a turn off. I clearly understand that the descendants of the Pachinko generation were conflicted and confused, but those that I know went to Stanford, Harvard, Columbia and became doctors, lawyers and financial tycoons and did not become alcoholics, drugs users, or prostitutes as depicted in the final chapters of this book. Perhaps this was autobiographical on the part of the author, but it does not represent the younger Korean generation that I know. Because of this I struggled to finish the book and still have an uncomfortable feeling about the last parts, because I don’t believe it represents reality.
Mesmerizing, I couldn’t put it down
This is an amazing book! I can see why it was a National Book award finalist. The characters are so richly developed by the author that I found myself thinking about them even when I wasn’t reading the book. The pages flew by as each character’s story unfolded. My only regret is that I’m sorry to have finished it so quickly.
Just from the opening line I could tell this book would be brilliant - “history has failed us, but no matter.” “Panchinko” is a novel filled with delicate insight into womanhood, racism, religion, and the meaning of home. Told primarily from the perspective of Sunja and her descendants, the changing narratives allows for each of these concepts to be explored in depth whilst maintaining a sense of gentleness. If you do not have a great deal of understanding of 20th century Korean and Japanese history/relations, this book provides and illustration of Korean experiences as immigrants facing hardship and prejudice. An excellent read to understand the ordeal that many Koreans experienced yet is often under examined and under appreciated.