A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone.
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.
Yeongdo, Busan, Korea
History has failed us, but no matter.
At the turn of the century, an aging fisherman and his wife decided to
take in lodgers for extra money. Both were born and raised in the fishing village of Yeongdoa five-mile-wide islet beside the port city of Busan. In their long marriage, the wife gave birth to three sons, but only Hoonie, the eldest and the weakest one, survived. Hoonie was born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot; he was, however, endowed with hefty shoulders, a squat build, and a golden complexion. Even as a young man, he retained the mild, thoughtful temperament he'd had as a child. When Hoonie covered his misshapen mouth with his hands, something he did out of habit meeting strangers, he resembled his nice-looking father, both having the same large, smiling eyes. Inky eyebrows graced his broad forehead, perpetually tanned from outdoor work. Like his parents, Hoonie was not a nimble talker, and some made the mistake of ...
Although some of the central events of the novel, like World War II and the atomic bomb drop at Nagasaki, are familiar territory for fiction, Lee prioritizes out-of-the-ordinary perspectives: her Korean characters are first the colonized, and then the outsiders trying to thrive in a foreign country despite segregation and persecution. I recommend Pachinko to readers of family sagas and anyone who wants to learn more about the Korean experience.
(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).
Full Review (715 words).
"If you are a rich Korean, there's a pachinko parlor in your background somewhere," Min Jin Lee writes in her novel Pachinko. Several of her Korean characters end up working in pachinko parlors, despite their differing levels of education and their previous experience.
Pachinko is essentially an upright pinball machine. Gamblers pay to borrow a set of small steel balls that are loaded into the contraption. Pressing a spring-loaded handle launches them onto a metal track lined with brass pins and several cups. The aim is to bounce the balls off the pins and get them to land in the cups before they fall down the hole at the bottom. A ball landing in a cup triggers a payout, in the form of extra balls dropping into the tray at the ...
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