Score: 3.5/5 Bookmarks
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is an intricately woven tale of relationships, family, sacrifice and desire for belonging that spans from the early 1900s right through to the ‘90s. There were definitely parts that were so heart wrenching that I sobbed out loud as I read them, and while the book made me smile a few times it is overwhelmingly heavy. There are no real happy endings for any of the characters we follow through the years. None of them ever feel at home, always being treated like outsiders, or imposing that title of outsider onto themselves.
It’s a tale as old as time, wanting to do better for your children, and for them to have a better life than you had, although it doesn’t always work out that way in this story.
I struggled with giving this book a score because I feel like it was well written, interesting, and it gave me a lot to think about. It certainly opened my eyes to what it must have been for Koreans in Japan before and during World War II, and I loved all of the strong women in the story. But there were certain characters I would have liked to see developed further. On occasion I felt like I had just started to know and understand a character and then the story moved on to someone else. I do recommend it, but make sure you’re in the mood for a heavier, more depressing book before you pick it up.
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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.