Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

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Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: February 7th, 2017

Page Count: 496 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket: In this gorgeous, page-turning saga, four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from a home they never knew.

“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.

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Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.

Pachinko follows several generations of a Korean family after they have fled to Japan because of circumstance and war. The story opens in a boardinghouse in Korea where we meet Hoonie and Yanglin. A marriage is arranged between them, and together, they have Sunja. It is Sunja’s story that takes us from Korea to Japan, after an unplanned pregnancy with a married man threatens to bring great shame on her family.  The consequences of that choice, for Sunja and her children and grandchildren ripple throughout the rest of the book.

In Pachinko, Lee writes of familial love and sacrifice, war and prejudice, perseverance and bravery. Much of the book centers around the female characters and their roles in providing for their families and the strong relationships they develop with one another. She seems to effortlessly weave personal and political details, making every aspect of the book accessible and engaging. She writes about the Pachinko business and what a large role it played in Korean livelihood. She writes about the discrimination the Koreans face at the hands of the Japanese, the repercussions of which continue to impact families for several generations.

One of the first things to strike me about Pachinko was Lee’s writing style. It is simple and sparse and straightforward, but nothing ever feels lacking. She used the same voice whether writing about the most mundane details of a sitting room or describing the death of a character. And as a reader, I was equally enthralled throughout. I found myself relishing in her descriptions of the boarding house where the story begins. She’s also an incredibly efficient storyteller, allowing no detail to go to waste. After just a few chapters I started looking forward to each new detail she added because I couldn’t wait to see how she weaved it in to the larger tapestry of the story.

At the end of this book, Lee includes a lengthy Author’s Note where she describes how she initially got the idea for Pachinko in 1989 and has been working on some iteration of it ever since.

Just let that sink in.

Almost thirty years to create this work, and all I can say after reading it, is yes. Yes, I can absolutely understand how this incredible book took almost 30 years to craft. Yes, I can see the dedication, time, and love in even the smallest details. Yes, this book is absolute perfection. And not only did I enjoy the hell out of it, but I learned so much about a part of history that I had no previous knowledge of. I cannot recommend this enough and I hope I do not have to wait 30 more years for her next book. But if I do, I have no doubt that it will be worth it.

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

(And I’ve added it to my list of top all-time favorites.)

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Checking In

Hello blog land. Is anyone still out there?

You guys. It has been way too long since I’ve posted. Life has been crazy and the little free time I’ve had has been spent reading instead of reading and blogging. I only finished 5 books in January, compared to the 15 I read last year!

A few updates:

  • I joined my very first book club and our vote this month is for Little Fires Everywhere, so I’m really excited to start that soon. Everything I Never Told you, also by Celeste Ng was absolutely phenomenal, so I’ve got really high hopes for this one.
  • I also joined Book of the Month and it is the best thing ever. If you haven’t already checked it out, you really should. Not only do I look forward to it at the beginning of each month, but the selections they have are books I would buy anyways.
  • I have had Outlander on my TBR for what feels like forever, and I finally started it last week. It is really quite wonderful and I am crushing HARD on Jamie Fraser. If you’ve been on the fence about this one, I recommend picking it up. It’s one of those books that you think about even when you aren’t reading, because you just cant wait to immerse yourself in it again. I’m probably going to have to start the show too because, just look at this face:


  • I don’t typically talk about movies in this space, but if you haven’t already seen I, Tonya, you really should. I was completely unprepared for how much I would love it and how well done it was. As a kid growing up loving the winter olympics, the news coverage surrounding this was a big and impactful part of my childhood. Watching the movie was a bit like going back in time.
  • I went to an Eagles Bar yesterday and spent the day with die hard fans. I am not a football fan, like at all, and also not a big frequenter of bars, so to say I was outside of my comfort zone would be an understatement (the things we do for our friends, amiright?) Despite those things, I had an absolute blast. The energy was incredible and everyone was so happy. It was a truly unforgettable day.
  • One of my 2018 goals is to blog more…..I’ll keep working on it.


  • What is everyone up to? How is your 2018? What are you reading?


Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon – Hour 17

17 hours in and I’ve just finished book number two. Here’s a breakdown of the last few hours:

715-8PM PGs 8-65

8-9PM PGs 66-158

9-10PM PGs 159-252

10-11PM PGs 253-331

11-1145PM PGs 332-411

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I really enjoyed Stand Off, and the ending was much much better than Winger’s (which broke my heart into 8 billion little pieces).

I don’t know how much farther I’ll make it, but I’m going to start book 3 and see how it goes!

Hope everyone else is having a fabulous readathon!