Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. 

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Author: Min Jin Lee

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Rating: 4/5

I am somewhat torn on this book. I actually had two different friends (who don’t know each other at all) tell me that they purposefully slowed down as they approached the end because they didn’t want to finish it yet. I did enjoy and appreciate Pachinko, but I didn’t quite get to that point.

It is a beautiful piece of literature that spans decades during well-known historical events. Because it moves between multiple generations, none of the characters become 100% developed, but you get a taste or two of each one, hinting at the deep, human elements that would exist within any real person. It dealt with complex issues and important themes like homosexuality, gender roles in heavily patriarchal societies, honor, growing up, and more.

I think the only reason I didn’t completely love this book was that it didn’t have a well-defined story arch. Even as I approached the last page, I found myself wondering how the author would find a place to wrap up; the story could have kept moving to new generations and following this family forever and ever. And the ending did wind up feeling somewhat arbitrary. All in all, though, it was a beautiful journey.

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