Pachinko — part family saga, part historical epic — starts with a perfect line: “History has failed us, but no matter.” Min Jin Lee’s masterpiece unspools to cover nearly 80 years of the 20th century, following a Korean family from their occupied fishing village to uneasily inhabiting multiple Japanese cities, and the choices and circumstances of history that redirect their lives. It's a novel of astonishing depth, thanks to skillful writing that highlights the dreams, motivations, and disappointments of even minor characters. Pachinko is both quietly devastating and intensely nourishing, and will absolutely change your life. Recommended By Michelle C., Powells.com
Following four generations of a family from WWII to 1989, Pachinko examines themes of war, identity, prejudice, poverty, shame, and family. Set against the bombing of Nagasaki and the Korean War, but focusing on the unrelenting prejudice born from that period, Lee's story asks the question: What is home? Competently done, the saga of Sunja, her parents, her children, her grandchildren, and the man who helps her throughout her entire life, Pachinko is full of both pain and joy. Don't miss it. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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).
NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2017 * A USA TODAY TOP TEN OF 2017 * JULY PICK FOR THE PBS NEWSHOUR-NEW YORK TIMES BOOK CLUB NOW READ THIS * FINALIST FOR THE 2018 DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE* WINNER OF THE MEDICI BOOK CLUB PRIZE
Roxane Gay's Favorite Book of 2017, Washington Post
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * #1 BOSTON GLOBE BESTSELLER * USA TODAY BESTSELLER * WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER * WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER
"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.
"Stunning...Despite the compelling sweep of time and history, it is the characters and their tumultuous lives that propel the narrative...A compassionate, clear gaze at the chaotic landscape of life itself." The New York Times Book Review
"A big novel to lose yourself in or to find yourself anew — a saga of Koreans living in Japan, rejected by the country they call home, unable to return to Korea as wars and strife tear the region apart. The result is like a secret history of both countries burst open in one novel. I hope you love it like I did." Alexander Chee, author of Queen of the Night and Edinburgh writing for the Book of the Month Club
"Lee’s latest novel is a sprawling and immersive historical work that tells the tale of one Korean family’s search for belonging exploring questions of history legacy and identity across four generations....Lee’s novel is an exquisite meditation on the generational nature of truly forging a home." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Min Jin Lee's debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, was one of the "Top 10 Novels of the Year" for The Times (London), NPR's Fresh Air, and USA Today. Her short fiction has been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts. Her writings have appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, The Times (London), Vogue, Travel+Leisure, Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, and Food & Wine. Her essays and literary criticism have been anthologized widely. She served as a columnist for the Chosun Ilbo, the leading paper of South Korea. She lives in New York with her family.