Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

In the past few years, Tik Tok has influenced many aspects of my life, one of which are the books that I choose to purchase. My attention is swayed by images and short quotes that gravitate toward me through the screen. There have been countless books that I have regretted buying through a Tik Tok recommendation, evident from the books that sit on my shelf collecting dust, as I had not realized that most readers on Tik Tok enjoy books for the cliche plot lines and aesthetics. Yet at this very short and very reckless point in my life, I was recommended Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a novel that I did not regret buying, despite my negative opinions of Tik Tok reviews. 

The story centers around the main character, Sunja, and the generations of her family that stems from her unexpected pregnancy in the early 1900s in Korea. I was immersed in Lee’s words, her eloquent word choice painted my mind with images of the Korean landscape and left the sour taste of kimchi on my tongue. The story was painfully loving, a kaleidoscope of emotions that yearn to leap from the pages. My heart twisted and shriveled, grew and raced, as my eyes scanned its pages at an incredible speed, ravenous for more. 

I have always been one to immerse myself in books, seeing my joy and fear in the characters of ink-stroked pages. But no book was more of a mirror of myself than Pachinko. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the Asian struggle in society, a story that has passed through generations of families and left untouched. I could see myself, my mother, and her mother in Sunja. 

As boundless as my love is for Sunja, I was left unsatisfied with the depth of her children. Several perspectives were featured in her family (unspecified so that you can enjoy the book without spoilers!), although they were less delved in than Sunja. I didn’t have a chance to personally connect with each character, yet some did manage to leave an impact on me. However, the novel is already at a striking length of 605 pages, so, understandably, certain characters will be left unexplored. 

I highly recommend this book for those who wish to find themselves. It is one thing to enjoy a character and another to see yourselves in them, a feeling that will let you feel their bliss and feel their pain at saturated levels. In paper and ink, you will see flesh and heart. There are very few books that can make you feel this way, and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee triumphs over many.