Author: Min Jin Lee
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback Edition: 479 pages plus Reading Group Guide and Author Interview
Source: Personal copy
In the very early years of the twentieth century, the young daughter of a poor, crippled fisherman in Korea becomes involved with a handsome wealthy stranger. When she discovers she is pregnant and her lover is unable to marry her, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle minister passing on his way to Japan. Her new life in Japan is different than the reader imagined it might be.
And so a complex and stunning story of life as an immigrant family unfolds. Never before has it become so clear what the struggle and sacrifice of immigration can be, not only for the first generation who live in a new country, but for the generations that follow. The clarity of this story, and what it takes to survive as a member of a persecuted minority takes the reader by surprise.
The fact that so many are not aware of the history between Korean and Japanese peoples heightens the interest and emotional complexity of this story. This book is a National Bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Award and easily the best book of the year for many. Certainly this author is among the finest novelists you will ever have a chance to read.
Every character a work of art, a setting so carefully and totally brought to life, conflict both exciting and sorrowful, all this and more fills the pages of this addictive family saga. More than any other read in my personal experience, Pachinko enables me to begin to know and feel more than I ever thought possible about the immigrant life and how one group of people discriminates so horribly against another. Perhaps it seems instructive in this regard because to many readers it is a new perspective on a situation that plagues humans with more cost than the rampant illnesses from the middle ages.
It is a book that reminds us how family members demonstrate love for one another, over and over, through difficult times. Next time dear reader that you shake your head about the inhumanity people show for one another, read Pachinko. Your faith in your fellow humans will begin to be restored. You are likely to have a new respect for the meaning of human endurance.
A few years ago I wrote about the experiences of my Scottish foremothers transplanted from Scotland to the unsettled prairies of Iowa. I thought how they just continued keeping-on, endurance played the keynote of their lives. They must tip their bonnets to Koreans who live in Japan and to ever other immigrant group who find themselves denigrated by those who live around them. Here in the United States we often blame our fellow humans with a skin color different than our own for some of the grave difficulties that beset their lives. We think those from other ethnic groups can easily go back to where their parents and grandparents once lived.
Pachinko informs not just the head, but also the heart; the reader cannot stop thinking about the issues, all the while with a heart filled to bursting with multiple emotions. It is quite simply a wonderful story. It took this reader to places I did not know I wanted to go. I cannot remember when I have been so affected and so jubilant with the reading a story, especially one filled with so much sadness. It may prove to be my favorite of all time.