Pachinko, Min Jin Lee

By Gillian Golborne


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.


I like to read books which are both educational and enjoyable. Who knew about the large number of Koreans who immigrated to Japan for a better life in the early to mid 20th century?

This was a complex story with a lot of history. So much detail threaded through the entire book as it related the Japanese treatment of the Koreans. It was definitely thought provoking and generated a very lively discussion.

Multiple generations living together under one roof and looking after/supporting each other is not common in the West. Something we can only understand to a certain point. This rather dense book covers Sunja’s difficult life as seen across various generations and the repercussions of her early life.

Near the end of the book, I did feel that there was just too much history, and too many people in this story. I found many of the characters disappeared into the background and you were left wondering where they went. Maybe the author tried to inject too much drama in each event.

Clearly very well researched and enjoyable.

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