Book Reviews

Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.

If you have ever wondered about the lives of Koreans living in Japan, or never knew about it, please read this book. Pachinko is a fantastic multi-generational novel that explores the lives and struggles of a family of Koreans living in both Korea and Japan during a period of unrest and political changes. It is an intense family drama full of characters who are complex and troubled.

This love for her children felt like life and death.

The book does not shy away from portraying a complex situation of their position as Koreans in Japan. Based on history, Pachinko interrogates a deeply troubled relationship of prejudice, discrimination, and injustice. They have frustrating and intricate relationships that are full of real moments of loss, inequality, and chances never taken. The story is a slow burner and it takes pages for the story and characters to unfold. Deeply conflicted moments of integrity and heartache are combined with intense poverty, political unrest, and identity struggles. The story examines the moments of change, when power turns over and when the traditional and modern meet. In these difficult times, how does our identity and culture change? How do we change?

Beyond the dailiness, there had been moments of shimmering beauty and some glory, too, even in this ajumma’s life. Even if no one knew, it was true.

Combining many different Korean identities, the book shows how complex our identities are and how our relationship to culture can expose our limits and demand us to adapt. The book challenges our perceptions not only of the countries and identities in the book, but does so in a way that focuses on a whole family and the slow progression of change. You can buy a copy here.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley

What is your favorite family drama novel?

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If you enjoy Asian fiction and Korea, you might like Human Acts.


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