Archive | 10:19 AM

Book Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (5/5)

20 Jan

I wish I’d read this book before I heard Lee speak at the Midwest Literary Walk. Now that I’ve finished it, I want to ask her so many questions. And I think I would have understood her talk about the book better. I’ll have to try harder to read the books in advance for 2020.

Cover image via Goodreads

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

I didn’t expect a 600-page book to read so quickly. I adored every page of this book and the amazing story of Sunja. I loved jumping from generation to generation, person to person, and story to story as we saw how the Koreans in Japan were treated and how they were able to overcome their circumstances as best as possible to make a life. It’s incredible to think about how they made it through with the deck stacked against them. The drama was just enough to keep me going when the page count was keeping me down.

The characters were amazing. I was always impressed when the new characters were so different from the ones whose stories faded. I loved hearing about Soloman as much as I liked hearing about Kyunghee. The lives these people lived were incredibly deep and their personalities were well illustrated. I believed they were all real.

Noa was my favorite character. His life was so complex and he had a lot to think about and gave the reader a lot to ponder. He is so smart and I think that drove him to overthink everything that happened to him and around him. Like a true literature major, he had to analyze things and search for meaning in his life so he could figure out a purpose. When he tried to run away, it broke my heart. I adored him so much. It was great that we saw him grow up through the novel as well. We really see his whole life through.

I related to the women in this book. It often feels like a woman has to bear her sadness with a stoic face and I think that’s a truth universally and for much of history. Women have to make due very often and sometimes under incredible circumstances. I’ve seen that in my life and I saw it in this book.

Me and Min Jin Lee

Sunja and Kyunghee’s industrious business work was my favorite part of the book. They were forced to work so hard to care for their families and they were so resilient to anything that threatened to keep them down. They were so brave and admirable and I loved reading about how determined they were to make good lives for Noa and Muzasu.

The plotline with Yoseb was hard for me to read. He changed so much after his accident that I almost didn’t believe it. Seeing him so angry and Kyunghee kowtowed was hard. When he would come up, I kept hoping the narrating character would get away from him as fast as possible.

Familial love and devotion are huge themes in this book. Sunja goes to amazing lengths to protect Noa from the truth and raise him as a Korean son. She’s thwarted many times along the way but tries her hardest to do what is right. Mozasu’s love for Soloman is a good parallel. He gives his son everything possible in his childhood but can’t protect him for everything which comes back to bite him.

Writer’s Takeaway: Lee does a great job of keeping a story burning. Her big revelations and plot points are far enough apart to keep you on the edge of your seat without being overwhelmed and balancing a slow plot with deep emotional connection. And nothing was predictable; bad things kept happening to characters I loved. That made it feel very real.

An amazing book and I’d recommend it to anyone. Five out of Five Stars.

This book counts for the 1940-1959 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Review of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee | The Book Stop
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A deeply moving story of family and love: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee | Ayunda Bhuwana
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee | The Next Book on the Shelf