Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
I read it as an: audiobook
Narrator: Allison Hiroto
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Year: 2017, listened to 7/2/18 – 7/13/18
Pachinko is a multigenerational saga about a family of Koreans who have to move to Japan because…reasons. Initially, Sunja, the beloved daughter of two older parents (older in that they were early 20s when she was born in the early 20th century), gets pregnant. Her lover, she discovers after it’s too late, already has a wife in Japan. One of the boarders at her parents’ boardinghouse, a preacher traveling to his new church, offers to marry her. She accepts and goes with him to make a new life in Japan. Together, they raise their sons in Japan and the story follows four generations of their family, navigating through wars, cultural upheaval, and constantly being viewed as outsiders even when one is born in Japan.
It’s been a really interesting read, though I am finding that I’m just not generally a fan of multigenerational narratives. Not in one book, anyway. This started out strong and then got rushed near the end, like there are too many stories, too many characters, and too much to say to give much attention to any one of them. The same thing happened with Homegoing. I loved the first half of the book and then it just got too rushed and I didn’t get to know the characters as well. I think doing multigenerational sagas over several books is a better way to go.
That said, this was an excellent read, especially the first half, and I learned a ton about Korean culture that I had no idea about before. I didn’t know so many Koreans had moved to Japan, nor that Japan had occupied Korea. Education fail in a big way! The way some of the people felt like they had to “pass” as Japanese just to be allowed to live in peace and make a life for themselves was so sad. Now I want to reread Passing.
Overall, though I had my quibbles with it, I thoroughly enjoyed Pachinko and would recommend it as an excellent and eye-opening read.