Mini Book Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: November 14, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction

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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.

My Thoughts

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, is one of those books that I went into with full hopes of it being AMAZING and life-changing. And I will admit, the first half of the book had me enthralled. I loved the story of Sunja and her fascination with the stranger she fell in love with. Their story and their connection had me hooked, and I thought the story was going to go another way, but it didn’t, and that’s part of what disappointed me in the story.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I did really enjoy this story, but by the last third, it really lost my attention ad turned into something I wasn’t enjoying. Not only that, but another reviewer (sadly, I can’t remember who) summed it up like this, “Everything is tragic, and everyone dies.”

And while I won’t go into how that one sentence resonated with my own thoughts, I will say it’s not the happiest book. The characters I loved didn’t have enough story for me. I thought this might be the story of Sunja and her boys, but there was a whole wealth of characters introduced throughout and a lot of them I didn’t really care about, nor did I want to read about.

There’s also the writing; the way the characters spoke was so similar to one another. No one had their own inflections or ways of speaking that really stood out. And the standout characters didn’t get enough airtime for me.

While Pachinko is a book I devoured quite quickly, it, unfortunately, wasn’t one that would stay with me. It went into the pile of books to be donated and forgotten about. I’m happy to have finally read this story to see what the hype was about, but I just wish it would have been something different.

Have you read Pachinko? What were your thoughts? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below!

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