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Pachinko review: Unraveling A Tapestry of Lives

There I was, sipping my Earl Grey, nestled in my reading nook, when “Pachinko” beckoned. Having heard its praises sung from book clubs to dinner parties, I was eager to immerse myself in its expansive narrative. As I flipped through the pages, I found myself transported to a vivid world of love, sacrifice, and perseverance, so real and raw that I could almost feel the pulse of its characters.


Spanning generations, “Pachinko” is an epic tale set against the rich backdrop of Korea and Japan from the early 1900s to the late 1980s. We first meet Sunja, a young, resilient woman who finds herself pregnant with a wealthy fish merchant’s child. Unwilling to be his mistress, she accepts a marriage proposal from a kind, young minister suffering from tuberculosis, who offers her a chance at honor and a new life in Japan. Thus begins Sunja’s journey from Korea to Osaka, a move that will reverberate through subsequent generations.

Life in Japan isn’t easy for the Korean immigrants. They face discrimination, hardship, and are forced to navigate a world that often sees them as second-class citizens. As Sunja’s children and grandchildren come of age, they grapple with their identity, straddling the line between their Korean heritage and the Japanese world they inhabit. Throughout the saga, the game of Pachinko—a popular Japanese pinball-like game—emerges as a metaphor for the game of life, unpredictable and often cruel, yet also filled with moments of joy and hope.

7 Notable Quotes

  1. “Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”
  2. “Love was the kind of thing you could never afford when you are poor.”
  3. “We cannot help but be interested in the stories of people that history pushes aside so thoughtlessly.”
  4. “Noa had been so proud of his Korean face, but now he saw that it was his armor, and this was how he protected himself.”
  5. “Behind every door, there is a story, and every story is worthy of being told.”
  6. “Fate is a ladder on which you cannot afford to fall.”
  7. “To be Korean in Japan is to be less than fully human.”


“Pachinko” is a masterclass in storytelling. Min Jin Lee weaves a rich tapestry that illuminates the deeply human experiences of an immigrant family. It’s a tale about identity, love, and the burdens of history. The book isn’t just historical fiction—it’s a poignant examination of how societal structures and prejudices can shape and define individual destinies. While reading, I found myself reflecting on my own family’s stories of migration and change, making the narrative all the more resonant. Lee’s prose is elegant and evocative, and “Pachinko” stands tall as a novel that captures the very essence of the human spirit.

Rating: 5/5

TV or Film Adaptations

“Pachinko” is set to be adapted into a television series by Apple TV+, promising a compelling visual journey that mirrors the depth and richness of the novel. With a diverse cast that brings authenticity to the story, the series is eagerly anticipated by fans of the book.

Author Bio
Min Jin Lee’s talents shine brightly in her works. Born in Seoul and raised in New York, her own immigrant experience offers depth to her stories. “Pachinko” is her second novel, following her critically acclaimed debut, “Free Food for Millionaires”. Her deep exploration of the Korean diaspora has made her a prominent voice in contemporary literature.

FAQ or Reading Questions

  1. How does “Pachinko” challenge conventional narratives about immigrant experiences?
  2. Discuss the significance of the game Pachinko in relation to the story’s themes.
  3. How does the novel delve into the complexities of identity, particularly for the Korean-Japanese characters?
  4. How are the women in the story portrayed in relation to their societal constraints?
  5. Explore the generational differences in the book. How do the challenges faced by Sunja contrast with those faced by her descendants?

Where to Buy

Dive into the world of “Pachinko” and experience a tale that’s both sweeping and intimate. Secure your copy on Amazon and be prepared for an unforgettable literary journey.

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