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Pachinko (MP3)

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Pachinko (MP3)

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New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year and National Book Award finalist, Pachinko is an "extraordinary epic" of four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family as they fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan (San Francisco Chronicle).

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...

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New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year and National Book Award finalist, Pachinko is an "extraordinary epic" of four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family as they fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan (San Francisco Chronicle).


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.

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Customer Reviews

Modern classic Review by Stepanie
To kick off 2021, I want to recommend Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Despite its length and its weighty subject matter, this is a book for everyone. It’s a book for someone who favors plot twist; it’s a book that gives a broad-stroke overview of Koreans in Japan; it’s a book that reveals gender role obligations; it’s a book that never condescends to the reader. It resonates without judgment and offers hard truths without polemics.
The magic? Lee likes people. She gives us the turbulence of human experience and we conclude, in the end, life was worth it. There is hope, pathos, and yes, han–the untranslatable Korean word that speaks to sorrow, perseverance, resilience, determination, intractable spirit, and memory.
How do people survive and adapt to the machinations of internal domestic politics (North/South Korea), Christianity, and war? In Pachinko, history comes alive. From the conscription of sex slaves to the orthodoxy of Confucian gender roles to the bombing of Nagasaki to the missionary work of Christians in Asia—it’s all here.
The adaptation of a 19th-century novel’s style cleverly underscores that Asian communities have a diasporic past beyond the clutches of the American experience—as do many other non-white groups of people. We adjust our geographic lens.
Asian Americans are burdened with the label of being a perpetual foreign Other, but in an age of global reckoning of the environment and the reformation of the nation-state, this is precisely why we might look to this group for innovations in literature.
This is a great book! Read it.

(Posted on 3/16/2022)
A Haunting, Generational, and Important Read Review by P. Buis
Similar to "Homegoing" by Yaa Gysasi, this novel works in generational fashion with a close eye on history and the way its waves fold over each other before retreating back into the larger, omnipresent ocean. The depths of discrimination are told with nuance more than conviction, and there is a melancholy that enchants the entire text. A haunting mood for the reader to inhabit, if willing.

This is not a novel driven by plot; it is dense, and the reader must turn the pages--not the other way around. Indeed, Lee seemed to have refused to lean on the climactic moments, subduing them in a way few texts do. And though this lack of action may disappoint some readers, it is a confident decision that heightens the mood.

And perhaps this says more about me than the text, but I learned an incredible amount about a part of the world I knew little about. The Japanese occupation of Korea, the existence of pachinko parlors and their ties to Korean discrimination/underworld, and the religious customs interwoven through it all--all these things were fairly new to me, and leave me wanting to know more.

This book takes a great deal of commitment, but its haunting feel resonates in ways worth experiencing. (Posted on 3/16/2022)
Masterpiece Review by Camille
When I first finished reading Pachinko the word that came to mind was ‘masterpiece.’ So often when we think about the immigrant experience, our focus tends to shift towards Europe or the United States and we forget about how immigrants and their descendants in other countries are fighting fierce battles of their own to be recognised in countries that they’ve lived in for decades, or even been born into.

The characters do not get happy-ever-after endings like you read about in fairytales, although it is far from a misery book. It’s true, the characters do struggle, but that’s what encouraged me to read on, to learn the different ways people react in adverse circumstances.

The author of the book, Min Jin Lee, is highly articulate and personable and I remember watching her during a TV interview where she said she was keen to reclaim the stories of ordinary people that history tends to forget. She’s succeeded with Pachinko.

The protagonist of the book, Sunja, a fifteen-year old who falls pregnant to her married lover had all the makings of the typical heroines you read about who become ruined women. Min Jin Lee humanises her, and gives a voice to the thousands of Korean immigrants who fled to Japan in the wake of the Korean civil war to create a different sort of life for themselves.

A remarkable a achievement that’s created a book I’ll cherish forever. (Posted on 3/6/2022)
Exciting ! Review by BestBookSales Customer
I am so pleased I bought this book. It was enthralling - took me less than two days to read. I began by thinking it was going to be a family saga type book (which I normally avoid like the plague) but it was anything but. I found myself become deeply involved with the characters and wanting to know how they got on, how their various decisions affected their lives. I was actually pleased it is a standalone book as it meant more than the first in a series.

I'd no idea what pachinko was (or, indeed, is) and I vaguely (and incorrectly) thought it would have something to do with food or clothing.
I hadn't realised how the Koreans were treated by the Japanese and had no idea of what they had to undergo in their day to day lives in either Korea or Japan. This book was an education.

(Posted on 3/4/2022)
Absolutely fantastic Review by Byron
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is a family saga about a four generations of a Korean family that is set in Korea and Japan. It’s a National Book Award finalist, and, in what may be an even greater honor than that, it made my Favorite Books list.

I have found that it is easier to explain why I don’t like a particular book or to point out a book’s flaws than it is to explain why I absolutely loved one. It’s like explaining why a rainbow is beautiful. I can talk about how the colors are pretty or how it made me feel, but there is something about rainbows, sunsets, and the best works of art that transcends easy explanation. You just have to experience them. Read Pachinko.

The format of the book is straightforward. It proceeds chronologically from about 1900-ish to 1989 and follows various characters that belong to one family. It never sprawls out of control – there aren’t 37 second-cousins that you will have to keep track of – and there aren’t flash-backs and flash-forwards that could potentially cause confusion. There are occasional Japanese or Korean words sprinkled around, but their meaning is apparent from the context. I don’t speak a lick of those languages, and I followed everything without ever having to consult a dictionary. The prose is simple and straightforward, generally consisting of short, direct sentences. There’s not a lot of fluff. Therefore, the book reads quickly, despite being an almost 500 page family saga about sexism, fate, hard work, destiny, chance, war, poverty, racism, familial obligations, identity, immigration, citizenship, language, education, opportunity, community, and faith.

The main characters are diverse, interesting, flawed, and generally fundamentally good people. The characters are not very Dynamic (at least in an obvious way), but they weren’t really intended to be. This isn’t a story populated with characters that have grand, clear character arcs. This made them feel more realistic to me. How many people do you know that are on a Hero’s Journey? Most people I know just try to keep their heads down, work to put food on the table, and hope for good opportunities for their children.

I’ve said before that I am a fan of history, and I was generally ignorant of Korean culture in Japan. Pachinko is not some dry history lesson, though. It’s as entertaining as a soap opera.

You should read it.

(Posted on 3/4/2022)
powerful & painful & beautiful Review by Luke
This novel amazed me with its narrative, characters, and truth. Audio worked, too. I learned about Japan and sad similarities we find all over the world, different details.

(Posted on 3/3/2022)

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