Where do wars end? Who starts them and who keeps them going? How long do we have to suffer the consequences? This book is an eye opening tale that compels us to look into the realities of life.
Penned down by the Korean American Writer Min Jin Lee, Pachinko tells the heart wrenching yet warm story of three generations of a Korean family living in a land that is not their own, a land they could never call theirs. Sunja, the only daughter of a young couple living in Yeongdo, Korea, meets a mysterious man whom she recklessly falls in love with – only to be left behind, pregnant, with nowhere to go. Heartbroken she makes some difficult choices, one of which is moving to Japan. The story revolves around her life in japan and the consequences she and her future generations have to face due to the choices made. Pachinko is the second novel of Lee, and has seen just as much success as her debut or even more. Published in 2017, Pachinko was nominated for the National Book Award for fiction and was also ranked as a New York Times bestseller.
Lee’s pachinko is captivating from the very first page and radiates warmth and hope in a story of a time where it seemed as if winter had decided to stay. At times, it is predictable, and at times it surprises you. Even though she narrates a story about a time that is long gone, the book is not just an insightful window to the past, but also enlightens us to question matters of the present time.
Lee very skillfully presents the story throwing light on Korea and Japan. Their history with occupation and oppression, and tells what it is like to exist in a place that you do not feel like you belong too, a place that does not seem to accept you. Through the plot, Lee portrays strong and incredible characters that become the backbone of the story. Not only Sunja, but as her legacy grows you see other characters struggle and fight with the consequences of the choices they had or had not made. Consequences of war, of racism.
If there is one thing that is keeping me back from calling the book perfect, it would be the desire of knowing more about the characters. Throughout the book I had situations where I wanted to know about a character’s feelings or thoughts on a certain subject, or maybe even the backstory of some characters, some of the would be: Koh Hansu, who seemed to be the most conflicting out of all the protagonists, Noa’s feelings about his family, and Sunja’s struggle with living in a strange country. But even then, with ever changing point of views and its numerous protagonists, Lee still manages to spin an incredible story about survival and hope, full of diverse and astounding characters.
I had heard this saying once that, if you want to know about a certain country, you should hear the stories its people have to tell and I think Lee’s pachinko is a fine example of that. I would recommend everyone to read this book. It would be great pick, not only because it is an insight into the struggles of war throughout Korea and Japan’s history, but also because it forces us to look at the situation around us. This book is a must read, more so because of the social and political scenario of the world right now. And if you’re someone who enjoys simple stories with deeper meanings, then this is definitely the book for you. However, you should be ready to sit through a really calm and modest story. Once you get into it, Pachinko is charming and unforgettable.
Aysha Kulsum is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Nuzhat Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.