Book Club: Pachinko


As a Korean American, I'm always interested in stories of people like me - a child of immigrants or stories of immigrants themselves are stories I like to consume with a passion because I can see myself in the pages. I saw that Pachinko was trending on Goodreads as a National Book Award finalist and on the cover I saw a picture of a woman in a hanbok (a traditional Korean dress). I was instantly intrigued and I picked it up at my local bookstore (yay for brick and mortar bookstores!). 

After I finished reading it, both my mom and Brian asked to borrow it as they could see how absorbed I was with it so while the two of them debate who gets it next, I'll leave you guys with my review: 

Related post: Book Club: In Farleigh Field

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Goodreads Synopsis: 

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.



My Review

The first thing I noticed about this book is the prose. The writing is simple, powerful, and omniscient and it made the story that much more compelling. There were no excessive descriptions (something that annoys me) and the lack of descriptions made the words that were on the page that much more powerful. 

The next thing that really drew me in was the excellent amount of pacing. I don't like slow-paced books and when I saw the length of the book (it's quite thick at 512 pages), I was afraid it would be so slow and boring. Not the case. There are quite a few time skips but they seem very deliberate and well-thought out. The story is about four generations of one family and the main characters continue to shift as older family members die out and younger family members are born. 

A young woman (Sunja), falls for a handsome stranger in the 1930s in Busan, Korea (before it was divided into two Koreas). She is impregnated and finds that her stranger is a married man. While he offers her a home and wealth, she refuses to be a kept "concubine" and refuses contact with him. Lucky for her, a Christian pastor offers to marry her and take her to Japan during their occupation of Korea. She accepts and they immigrate to Ikaino where she faces discrimination, hardships, and even the American bombings.

Something that I really loved about reading this is that a lot of the things Sunja and her brother and sister-in-law talk about remind me of the things my parents talk about. I think the word that can describe a lot of immigrants is "sacrifice." So many sacrifices for their children and their future. All of the hustling the family does is not for themselves but for their children to grow up not having to do what they did. Something I related to the Korean children born in Japan are so many thoughts I've had as a child of immigrants in America throughout the years. With every generation, there's less pain, less sacrifice, and less hardship. It's kind of beautiful. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes well-written prose and stories about the immigrant experience. 

13 comments

  1. Being able to say a lot with a few words is a rare skill. It sounds like the author was really able to do that and it's beautiful how it spoke to you!

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  2. I've never heard of this book before, but sounds very interesting!

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  3. This sounds like an excellent read Deborah!! I am always looking for new things to add to my book list and the plot of this one sounds very captivating.

    xoxo A
    www.southernbelleintraining.com

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  4. These sound like good reads! I love finding stories I can relate to too!

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  5. this book sounds really familiar, but i definitely gotta look into it. thanks for sharing your review! :)

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  6. Haven't heard of this book, but it sounds great! I'll check it out.

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  7. This sounds like such a good book. I will have to check this out.

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  8. During my last social studies unit we read a lot of stories about immigrants- my first graders loved hearing the stories of children who came to America- it was really eye opening for some of them!
    -Nicholle
    www.nichollesophia.com

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  9. I'm not Asian-American but I love reading books with Asian culture topics-- this sounds like it would be up my alley. Thanks for the review!

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  10. Sounds like such an interesting book! Def want to check it out.

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  11. This book sounds fascinating! It seems like a story of struggel, adventure and deep family ties which are all themes that make for a really good read!

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  12. Wow, this book sounds so fascinating! I love reading books that take me to a different time period or allow me to see glimpses into another culture, this book seems to do both!

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  13. Never heard of this book but it sounds so interesting. I need to add it to my to read list.

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Thank you for your comments! I read every single one :]