Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: A Book Review

This post contains affiliate links.

I requested the book Pachinko by Min Jin Lee back in Janaury, and I just got it 1.5 weeks ago.  There are 90 people in line behind me waiting on the book, so I was quite sure that this book would be an excellent read.

While the book did have me compulsively reading, and I couldn’t wait to see how it ended, I had mixed feelings about the book itself.

Pachinko tells the story of three generations of Koreans living in Japan.  The book spans nearly 100 years and starts with a young man, Hoonie, who has a cleft palate.  He marries Yianjin, and together, they have a daughter, Sunja.  They enjoy running a boarding home out of their house, and while they’re not wealthy, they have a happy little life.

When Sunja is a teen, she becomes pregnant by a man nearly double her age, Hansu.  After she tells him she’s pregnant, she discovers he has kept a secret from her, and she breaks up with him.

The story follows Sunja’s immigration to Japan, her marriage, and ultimately the lives of her two sons.

I absolutely loved the first half of this book because I felt that I knew Yianjin and Sunja so well.  I felt that I was enmeshed in their lives.  However, as Sunja’s two son’s grow up, the book became more fragmented for me.  Min Jin Lee writes about the two sons, their families, and others in their lives.  However, because there are so many characters, she can only give them a cursory glance.  I didn’t feel any deep emotion toward these characters.  Their stories just weren’t developed enough for me.

In addition, the book was a bit more risque than I like.  And some especially risque parts just felt gratuitous to me, especially since the one chapter that was raciest was about a couple that was only discussed in that chapter.  Nothing further was said about them, and nothing was resolved.

However, the book did give me insight into the Korean-Japanese relations and how difficult it must have been to live in Japan as a Korean.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but I wish the author would have developed the characters in the second half of the story much more fully.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.

Leave a Reply