Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I finished Pachinko in August and it is one of the most memorable novels I have ever read. I started it for the Seattle Public Library Summer Reading Bingo even though I didn't get to participate because I was in the middle of finishing my associate degree. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee brought into perspective immigration into a country where immigrants are unwanted and looked down upon. It also brought to mind the strength women have when they live in poverty.

 

About the Book (from the book)

"History is seldom kind. In Min Jin Lee's bestselling, magisterial epic, four generations of a poor, proud immigrant family fight to control their destinies, exiled from a homeland they never knew.

"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 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, to reject her son's powerful father sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations."

 

Discussion

Instead of giving a review of the book, I would rather start a discussion by asking a few questions about the book and giving my thoughts and then you all can answer them in your own way in the comments!

 

  • "History has failed us, but no matter." How does the opening line reflect the rest of the book, and do you agree?

                At the beginning of the book, Sunja's family tree is described. Her grandparents were hard working and created a life for her father, who happened to be disabled. But her parents also worked hard for Sunja's future, only she didn't take in what her parents and grandparents did for her until she married Isak. And then there is also the counter story of having to leave her homeland and being unable to go back. Her history did not prepare her for a difficult life, one filled with war and heartbreak. I do happen to agree with this line. Although we can learn from history, it never truly prepares us for the struggle and joy we will face in our own life.

 

  • Compare Noa's biological and adoptive fathers, Hansu and Isak: What qualities does each try to foster in Noa and why? Whom does Noa most resemble?

                    I feel like Hansu and Isak are nothing alike. They are both educated, yes, but one is street smart and the other is book smart; one doesn't believe in a higher power and the other is a minister. However, they both tried to foster Noa's willingness to learn because they wanted him to have every opportunity that Koreans didn't have in Japan. I feel that Noa most resembled Isak. He may have looked like Hansu, but Isak was more influential in his life as the ending shows.

 

  • Sunja tells Noa that "Blood doesn't matter." Do you agree? What parts of the novel support or weaken Sunja's claim?

                    I do agree with this statement. Her friendship with Kyunghee throughout her life showed this as well as Noa's visits to his father, Isak's, grave even when he never visited his own mother. 

 

  • Why do you think the author chose Pachinko for the title?

                    I think Lee chose the title Pachinko because just like with gambling, life is unpredictable. We don't always make the right decisions and sometimes things are taken away, but we have to keep playing to really know what winning feels like and winning is different for everyone. 

 

Your Turn

I'd love to hear your thoughtful answers to these questions and if you agree or disagree with my observations about the book. Head over to Goodreads to check out what I am currently reading, and I will see you soon to discuss Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

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