NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
• A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW TOP TEN OF THE YEAR
• NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2017 *A USA TODAY TOP TEN OF 2017
Roxane Gay's Favorite Book of 2017, Washington Post
USA Today bestseller
In this bestselling, page-turning saga, four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from a home they never knew.
"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.
…stunning…Like most memorable novels…Pachinko resists summary. In this sprawling book, history itself is a character. Pachinko is about outsiders, minorities and the politically disenfranchised. But it is so much more besides. Each time the novel seems to find its locusJapan's colonization of Korea, World War II as experienced in East Asia, Christianity, family, love, the changing role of womenit becomes something else. It becomes even more than it was. Despite the compelling sweep of time and history, it is the characters and their tumultuous lives that propel the narrative. Small details subtly reveal the characters' secret selves and build to powerful moments…In this haunting epic tale, no one story seems too minor to be briefly illuminated. Lee suggests that behind the facades of wildly different people lie countless private desires, hopes and miseries, if we have the patience and compassion to look and listen.The New York Times Book Review - Krys Lee
Lee’s (Free Food for Millionaires) latest novel is a sprawling and immersive historical work that tells the tale of one Korean family’s search for belonging, exploring questions of history, legacy, and identity across four generations. In the Japanese-occupied Korea of the 1910s, young Sunja accidentally becomes pregnant, and a kind, tubercular pastor offers to marry her and act as the child’s father. Together, they move away from Busan and begin a new life in Japan. In Japan, Sunja and her Korean family suffer from seemingly endless discrimination, and yet they are also met with moments of great love and renewal. As Sunja’s children come of age, the novel reveals the complexities of family national history. What does it mean to live in someone else’s motherland? When is history a burden, and when does history lift a person up? This is a character-driven tale, but Lee also offers detailed histories that ground the story. Though the novel is long, the story itself is spare, at times brutally so. Sunja’s isolation and dislocation become palpable in Lee’s hands. Reckoning with one determined, wounded family’s place in history, Lee’s novel is an exquisite meditation on the generational nature of truly forging a home. (Feb.)
"The seminal English literary work of the Korean immigrant story in Japan...Lee's sentences and the novel's plotting feel seamless, so much so, that one wonders why we make such a fuss about writing at all. Her style is literary without calling attention to its lyricism."Ploughshares
"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
"The beautiful, overwhelming tone of the novel - and the one that will stay with you at the end - is one of hope, courage, and survival against all the odds."The Iklkely Gazette UK
"An exquisite, haunting epic."The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center & Bloom Magazine
"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
"This is honest writing, fiction that looks squarely at what is, both terrible and wonderful and occasionally as bracing as a jar of Sunja's best kimchi."NPR Book Review
"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
"A big novel to lose yourself in or to find yourself anew-a saga of Koreans living in Japan, rejected by the country they call home, unable to return to Korea as wars and strife tear the region apart. The result is like a secret history of both countries burst open in one novel. I hope you love it like I did."Alexander Chee, author of Queen of the Night and Edinburgh writing for the Book of the Month Club
"Sweeping and powerful"The Toronto Star
"[An] immersive novel."BBC.com's "10 Books to Read in 2017
"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 WomenFrom the Publisher
★ 10/15/2016Library Journal
Set in Korea and Japan, Lee's follow-up to her acclaimed debut, Free Food for Millionaires, is a beautifully crafted story of love, loss, determination, luck, and perseverance. Sunja is the only surviving child of humble fisherman Hoonie (himself born with a cleft palate and twisted foot) and wife YangJin in the early 1900s. Losing her father at age 13, Sunja appears to be a dutiful daughter by working at the boardinghouse with her mother, only to surprise the family three years later by becoming pregnant by an older married man with children. She saves face when a minister at the boardinghouse, ten years older than Sunja, offers to marry her and take her to Japan with him to start a new life. What follows is a gripping multigenerational story that culminates in 1989. There are surprising twists, especially when Sunja crosses paths with her former lover while living in Japan. VERDICT Lee's skillful development of her characters and story lines will draw readers into the work. Those who enjoy historical fiction with strong characterizations will not be disappointed as they ride along on the emotional journeys offered in the author's latest page-turner. [See Prepub Alert, 8/8/16.]—Shirley Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA
★ 2016-09-26Kirkus Reviews
An absorbing saga of 20th-century Korean experience, seen through the fate of four generations.Lee (Free Food for Millionaires, 2007) built her debut novel around families of Korean-Americans living in New York. In her second novel, she traces the Korean diaspora back to the time of Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910. “History has failed us,” she writes in the opening line of the current epic, “but no matter.” She begins her tale in a village in Busan with an aging fisherman and his wife whose son is born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot. Nonetheless, he is matched with a fine wife, and the two of them run the boardinghouse he inherits from his parents. After many losses, the couple cherishes their smart, hardworking daughter, Sunja. When Sunja gets pregnant after a dalliance with a persistent, wealthy married man, one of their boarders—a sickly but handsome and deeply kind pastor—offers to marry her and take her away with him to Japan. There, she meets his brother and sister-in-law, a woman lovely in face and spirit, full of entrepreneurial ambition that she and Sunja will realize together as they support the family with kimchi and candy operations through war and hard times. Sunja’s first son becomes a brilliant scholar; her second ends up making a fortune running parlors for pachinko, a pinball-like game played for money. Meanwhile, her first son’s real father, the married rich guy, is never far from the scene, a source of both invaluable help and heartbreaking woe. As 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 troubles of ethnic Koreans living in Japan never far from view. An old-fashioned epic whose simple, captivating storytelling delivers both wisdom and truth.