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Modern Age

Author: Lee, Min Jin
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1910-1989
Geographic Area: Asia
Country: Korea, Japan
Topics: Korean War
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Young Adult, Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2017

World History > Modern Age > Korean History

A New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year and National Book Award finalist, Pachinko is an "extraordinary epic" of four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family as they fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan (San Francisco Chronicle).

Roxane Gay's Favorite Book of 2017, Washington Post

"There could only be a few winners, and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones."

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.

Emily's Review

Some books you don't ever want to end. You want to curl up and live inside of them forever. That's how I felt while reading Pachinko. Spanning nearly a century, this novel tells the story of a Korean family over four generations. During World War II, they immigrated to Japan and then circumstances forced them to stay. I have read about the Japanese occupation of Korea and a bit about the Korean war prior to reading Pachinko, but I learned so much about that time period as well as what came after reading this book. In a lot of ways, this felt similar to Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which is another generational saga set in both Africa and America that deals with racism. So if you've read and enjoyed that story, then I think you will also love Pachinko.

The writing in this novel was very beautiful and simple. I listened to the audiobook along with the physical book and found myself completely transported. There are so many characters, but we somehow connect with every one of them. I was invested completely in their lives. I fell in love with them all as we watch them struggle to survive in a country that sees them as second-class citizens. The story moved me, and it made me think about my own family and how I got to where I am today because of two people meeting in the past.

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