PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee: A Review

This 2017 publication was described on the cover by one blurb-writer as, “a big beautiful book filled with characters I cared about and remembered after I’d read the final page.” My sentiments exactly! When I read, what I appreciate most is characterization, and Sunja, Isak, Joseb, and Kyunghee became very important, well-drawn people as I read the novel.

Pachinko is a gambling game played in pachinko parlors.

Coming from a poor, but proud Korean family, young Sunja meets Hansu, an older, very rich, mysterious man. He lives and does business in Japan, where Sunja and Isak, a Presbyterian minister who saved her from disgrace, end up as well. Throughout the novel, the author describes how the Japanese look down on the resident Koreans.

Lee is a gifted storyteller,who gracefully tells of the “harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty the main characters endure. Pachinko is a story of women’s friendship, the pursuit of joy, and the history of an ancient national conflict. It opens in the early 1900s and journeys through generations of Korean history.

This is in line for my “Best Read of 2021.”