"Pachinko" by Min Jin Lee

By Min Jin Lee

Reviewed by Julia

ISBN 9781455563920

For those weary of the disjointed narratives our modern world offers through tweets and sound bites, there is comfort to be found in the epic novel. Following the arc of a character's life experience (and the parallel scope of history provided) illuminates the meaning of one life, one story. "Pachinko" by Min Jin Lee follows the evolution of the Japanese-occupied South Korean immigrant experience from the year 1900 on the Korean continent to Japan during World War II, concluding in 1980's Tokyo. The story unfolds with an early revelation that the prized daughter of a poor fishing family, the naive and beloved young Sunja, is pregnant by the man she loves, however unattainable he may be. Both family and strangers conspire to secure a future for the young mother, culminating in a kind of generational nautilus of events spiraling lives through cause and effect, bound by sacrifice and the severity of loyalty and family secrets. Add the traditional Christian upbringing passed on by Western missionaries, war at national and global levels, and the overarching reach of gangsters running the Japanese pachinko (pinball) parlors, and you have a story ripe with rich influences which saturate and direct the characters' lives beyond their control. "Pachinko" provides a touching, deeper look within the thematic immigrant experience of cultural assimilation, pride, and the varied definitions of success and dreams fulfilled, lived through each generation.

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