ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Min Jin Lee is a Korean-American author. She was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1968. Her family moved to the USA in 1976 when she was seven.

She completed her BA from Yale College and studied law at the Georgetown University Law Centre. She worked as a corporate lawyer for two years, but eventually decided to concentrate on her writing career.

Lee has authored two bestsellers, Free Food for Millionaires (2007) and Pachinko (2017). Apart from novels, she has also written essays, short stories, columns in newspapers, and reviews. Her work reflects the issues concerning Korean people.

Lee has also held academic positions in different colleges and universities across the globe.

She lives in Manhattan with her son and husband.

SYNOPSIS

Pachinkoย is the story of a Korean family spanning four generations and eight decades.

The story starts in a small fishing village in present-day South Korea in 1910. Japan had defeated Korea, effectively annexing it. Hoonie, a man with certain physical limitations, and his wife Yangjin ran a boarding house for fishermen. They had only one daughter, Sunja.

After Hoonie’s death, both the mother and daughter manage the boarding house. An encounter with the dashing Koh Hansu changes Sunja’s life. Pregnant with the child of a man who will never accept her as his legal wife, Sunja has a dark future ahead. Isak, a young Christian priest, offers to marry her and take her to Osaka. Sunja accepts.

However, Japanese people were hostile to Koreans. This made the lives of the Koreans living in Japan very difficult. Isak and Sunja were still able to lead a happy, content life. However, a series of horrible events and the onset of the World War II end up destroying the life they had created.

An excerpt from Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

On the other hand, Koh Hansu never leaves Sunja’s side. He follows her as her shadow, finding ways to help her and her family.

Pachinko is divided into three parts: Hometown (1910-1933), Motherland (1939-1962), and Pachinko (1962-1989). In each part, a new generation is added to the story. Sunja, however, remains the central character throughout.

WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT PACHINKO

Pachinko is a page-turner. It is a powerful story of human relationships and survival. Lee is a master storyteller, and her writing is so delightful that one can feel the pain, joy, pride, and love that each character experiences.

Arguably the best thing about Pachinko is how incredibly real the story feels. The book is virtually devoid of melodrama or extra characters. It is as if readers are forced to emotionally connect to the lives of Sunja, Isak, Kyunghee, Yosef, Noa, Mozasu, Solomon, and even Koh Hansu.

The way Lee smoothly transitions from one decade to another while describing the societal changes is commendable, too.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT PACHINKO

Pachinko contains some Korean and Japanese words whose description hasn’t been provided. While this doesn’t affect the pace of the story or the story itself, one wouldn’t mind knowing what these terms mean.

QUOTES

People are rotten everywhere you go. They’re no good. You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” This was something Isak had taught her when she’d asked him about the evil of this world.

CONCLUSION

Ameya Score:
4.5/5

Pachinko is a beautiful story that would make for an ideal weekend read. Ameya wholeheartedly recommends this book to readers with a penchant for historical fiction.

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