PACHINKO, by Min Jin Lee, is bound to be one of the BIG books this season. Great books like THE GOOD EARTH, CUTTING FOR STONE, and THE KITE RUNNER, come to mind…
I’ve been searching for a book that will be special for book clubs to read this season. Bingo! PACHINKO is bound to be a big hit. It’s unique. It’s gorgeously written. It tells a blistering story of one Korean family and their life through the generations.
I think of THE GOOD EARTH by Pearl Buck as probably the harshest novel I’ve ever read. PACHINKO comes dangerously close. The novel starts in the early 1900’s in Korea. Sunja is the beloved daughter of a poor Korean family. She helps her mother take care of their home where they rent out spaces within the tiny rooms to boarders. Her father has died. One day Sunja’s on her way back from the market and is approached by a handsome older man. They begin meeting secretly. He makes her feel sooo special. And then it all turns sour. The love that Sunja gives Hansu is pure and freely given. And even though he’s taken with her, he’s already married with three daughters. This is not meant to be. Sunja does not know of his marriage. At least, not right away. Not until she discovers she’s pregnant with his child. Oh the shame that could be brought onto the shoulders of her proud family. And, even though Hansu tells Sunja that he will take care of her and her mother as well as his child, Sunja throws the money he hands her on the ground and flees.
Who is Hansu? Hansu is involved in the mob and operates Pachinko parlors that bring in a lot of revenue. Pachinko is a game like our pin ball. Anyone associated with this game is considered low life… No matter how much money they have.
When a young ailing minister who is traveling through offers to marry Sunja, she accepts with some pressure from her mother. And thus begins a new life as they move to Japan to live with his family. They are all Korean immigrants living in a hostile environment in Japan. Japan is not kind to Koreans. There is a lot to learn from the interaction of the school children. The shame. The discrimination. I had no idea.
The horrible challenges that this family face deal with faith and identity. I felt their pain throughout this elegant and soulful saga. This is a classic that will stay with you forever.
Always hovering overhead is the man who fathered Sunja’s son. We wait knowing he is there, bound to return.
This book is one of my favorite books of the year. I think you will put it on the top of your TR list.
Min Jin Lee lives in New York with her family. This is her second novel. Her first novel, FREE FOOD FOR MILLIONAIRES, was one of the “Top 10 Novels of the Year” for the Times (London). I can’t wait to read her next one.
I thank the very generous publishing people at Grand Central for my gorgeous finished hard copy. I received it in exchange for my honest review. I loved it!