I would never have thought of laying my hands on a book named Pachinko, but it came highly recommended by a good friend and a fellow bookworm. And if I hadn’t visited Japan couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have known what Pachinko is.
Pachinko is a type of mechanical game originating in Japan and is used both as a form of recreational arcade game and more frequently as a gambling device. It is a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine.
The book is not entirely about Pachinko, but it does draws an analogy between the many characters in the novel.
Published in 2017, Pachinko is Korean-American author Min Jin Lee‘s second novel. Pachinko is a family saga spanning four generations. Though the novel is very long, but you’ll never feel it, as it is beautifully and gracefully written with memorable characters and places.
The novel documents four generations of a Korean family from 1910 to 1989. It begins in Yeongdo, Korea where the kind-hearted, cleft-lipped Hoonie marries Yangjin. They’ve a daughter Sunja and years later when she is a teenager, Sunja becomes pregnant out of wedlock.
Baek Isak, a Christian minister offers to marry Sunja and give the child his name. After that she moves to Osaka, Japan to live with Isak’s brother and wife to start a new life with a man she barely knows. What happens next? Its a very long story which you’ll enjoy reading.
From this book, I got to learn about Korean and Japanese culture, politics and history. It was distressing to read about Koreans being imprisoned without trial. The book also brings to light the mostly-forgotten side of history of East Asia and portrays the struggles, hardships and joy of immigrants.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is gripping from start to finish and takes you on an immersive journey. A must-read novel.
Some of the quotes that I liked from Pachinko:
“You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.”
“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”
“History has failed us, but no matter.”
“In the end, your belly was your emperor.”
“Fill your mind with knowledge- it’s the only kind of power no one can take away from you.”
“She could not imagine clinging to Japan, which was like a beloved stepmother who refused to love you.”
“Love of god, he’d thought, should come naturally and not out of fear of punishment.”
“A snake that sheds its skin is still a snake.”