Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist)
February 2017 Indie Next List
— Jennifer Steele (E), Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
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— Elaine Petrocelli, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
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"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.
Praise For Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist)…
Included in The Millions' "Most Anticipated: The Great 2017 Book Preview"
One of Elle's "25 Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017"
BBC: "Ten Books to Read in 2017"
One of BookRiot's "Most Anticipated Books of 2017"
One of Nylon's "50 Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017"
One of Entertainment Weekly's Best New Books
One of BookBub's 22 Most Anticipated Book Club Reads of 2017—-
"A deep, broad, addictive history of a Korean family in Japan enduring and prospering through the 20th century."—David Mitchell, Guardian, New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks
"Astounding. The sweep of Dickens and Tolstoy applied to a 20th century Korean family in Japan. Min Jin Lee's PACHINKO tackles all the stuff most good novels do-family, love, cabbage-but it also asks questions that have never been more timely. What does it mean to be part of a nation? And what can one do to escape its tight, painful, familiar bonds?"—Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Little Failure and Super Sad True Love Story
"Both for those who love Korea, as well as for those who know no more than Hyundai, Samsung and kimchi, this extraordinary book will prove a revelation of joy and heartbreak. I could not stop turning the pages, and wished this most poignant of sagas would never end. Min Jin Lee displays a tenderness and wisdom ideally matched to an unforgettable tale that she relates just perfectly."—Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman and Korea: A Walk through the Land of Miracles
"PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee is a great book, a passionate story, a novel of magisterial sweep. It's also fiendishly readable-the real-deal. An instant classic, a quick page-turner, and probably the best book of the year."
—Darin Strauss, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Half a Life: A Memoir
"An absorbing saga of 20th-century Korean experience... the destinies of Sunja's children and grandchildren unfold, love, luck, and talent combine with cruelty and random misfortune in a deeply compelling story, with the trouble of ethnic Koreans living in Japan never far from view. An old-fashioned epic whose simple, captivating storytelling delivers both wisdom and truth."—Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Pachinko is a rich, well-crafted book as well as a page turner. Its greatest strength in this regard lies in Lee's ability to shift suddenly between perspectives. We never linger too long with a single character, constantly refreshing our point of view, giving the narrative dimension and depth. Add to that her eye and the prose that captures setting so well, and it would not be surprising to see Pachinko on a great many summer reading lists."—Asian Review of Books
"Effortlessly carries the reader through generations, outlining its changing historical context without sacrificing the juicy details...Life is dynamic: in Pachinko, it carries on, rich and wondrous."—The Winnipeg Free Press
"As an examination of immigration over generations, in its depth and empathy, Pachinko is peerless."—The Japan Times
"Lee shines in highlighting the complexities of being an immigrant and striving for a better life when resigned to a second-class status. In particular, she explores the mechanisms of internalized oppression and the fraught position of being a "well-behaved" member of a maligned group. When history has failed, and the game is rigged, what's left? Throughout Pachinko, it's acts of kindness and love. The slow accumulation of those moments create a home to return to again and again, even in the worst of times."—Paste Magazine
"Lee is a master plotter, but the larger issues of class, religion, outsider history and culture she addresses in Pachinko make this a tour de force you'll think about long after you finish reading."—National Book Review
"Pachinko gives us a moving and detailed portrait about what it's like to sit at the nexus of two cultures, and what it means to forge a home in a place that doesn't always welcome you."—Fusion
"If you want a book that challenges and expands your perspective, turn to Pachinko...in Lee's deft hands, the pages pass as effortlessly as time."—BookPage
"This family saga about a Korean family living in Japan sticks with you long after you've finished the 496th. I didn't want it to end."—Reading Women
Grand Central Publishing, 9781455563937, 496pp.
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. “History has failed us, but no matter.” How does the opening line reflect the rest of the book—and do you agree?
2. In a way, Sunja’s relationship with Isak progresses in reverse, as her pregnancy by another man brings them together and prompts Isak to propose marriage. How does Lee redefine intimacy and love with these two characters?
3. What does “home” mean to each of the main characters? Does it ever change? In what ways does a yearning for home color the tone of the novel?
4. How do courting and marriage alter from one generation to the next?
5. Compare the ways in which the women of this novel—from Sunja to Hana— experience sex.
6. How much agency and power do you think Sunja really has over her life?
7. Much is made of Sunja’s fading beauty, as well as the physical appearance of all the women who surround her. What does this reveal about society at this time? Do you see this emphasis on female beauty reflected in present-day culture?
8. Throughout the book, characters often must choose between survival and tradition or morality. Can you think of any examples that embody this tension?
9. Many of the main characters struggle with shame throughout their lives, whether due to their ethnicity, family, life choices, or other factors. How does shame drive both their successes and failures?
10. The terms “good Korean” and “good Japanese” are used many times throughout the book. What does it mean to be a “good Korean”? A “good Japanese”?
11. Compare the many parent-child relationships in the novel. How do they differ across families and generations? What hopes and dreams does each parent hold for their children—and are these hopes rewarded?
12. Even in death or physical absence, the presence of many characters lingers on throughout the book. How does this affect your reading experience? How would the book have been different if it were confined to one character’s perspective?
13. Why do you think the author chose Pachinko for the title?