Pachinko!

Min Jin Lee takes us on a long and tedious journey in her opus epic by the name of the most popular arcade games in east Asia. Being an immigrant is not easy at all and Japan is no saint. As the novel takes us through the life of Sunja, am assuming she is the binding factor in the story as the story begins with her life and ends with her reflection but in the midst touches upon many lives each one so different from the other but each one either Korean or Japanese or wannabe Japanese. Not much abreast about Korea, this read was a total new reveal to me. In my days in Singapore I did come in direct contact with Koreans, working with some, playing with some, they all seemed to be extremely beautiful what with their creams and masks, glorious skins and gorgeous proportions. But this novel revealed so much more. Set during the 1900s it even charts the horrors of the world war 2. Koreans or korean immigrants did not have it easy with Japan being quite the brat. When Jin Lee talks of now the westerners primarily Americans would never get over how polite and respectful the Japanese seem only the Koreans seem to know the inside story.

Extremely hardworking Sunja along with her co-sister runs the house so beautifully. Her relationship with Kyunghee, the co-sister seems so effortless and wonderful to me that it makes the entire family tide through tough times. My favourite character in the book is that of Mozasu, his vibe seems to be just right with a fistful of mojo at every turn. The vivid picture painted makes the read addictive. For some reason I could simply not put the book down at all. It was one of the most enjoyable reads this year. Now as I pen this review nothing memorable stands out from the book but I can clearly feel the tinge of delightfulness in my psyche. An experience which makes reading such a wonderful hobby and this book is just that. There were so many occasions when I felt like reaching out to the characters of the book, slapping Hansu in particular, and comforting Yoseb, giving a hug to Isak and shaking Solomon straight for breaking up with Phoebe. The characters incited such tender emotions. Japan is a mysterious country. Even on my visit there I found the stillness and silence, notwithstanding the neutral palette not calming but highly unnerving. Tokyo with its bursts of neon colours was something I really liked, though Kyoto was extremely charming, Osaka I did not like at all and I completely blame the hopelessness of the characters on the sordid city. In the book Tokyo is painted as a very dirty, vicious city, well in the 1940s it may have been but I dont think its such anymore.

The land of Muji and Itoya I could never get myself to hate Japan, but Jin Lee in her writing makes an attempt to show the ugly side of Japan. America however remains the dream. To me too even today it is my favourite country with a Trump card or not. Yumi tugs at our hearts when she says again and again at various times of her life and in the book that everything is better in California. Upon her death when Solomon is asked where is Mommy, he says she’s in California for California or the idea of it was always heaven to her. Immigrants had it hard in every part of the world but not in America, atleast not as hard. As the younger bunch in the book scramble to learn English, worry to give their children a better life it seems like it could have been a story of anywhere, but when you read about the women, building their homes, running their homes along with an enterprise you realise it is a special story. Sunja and Kyunghee left a lasting impression in my head on what can be achieved when there is a genuine camaraderie between two enormously different looking and completely different tempered women. One a beauty and the other so stocky but together the lifeline for all of the family. Silence may be golden but it is not always precious, sometimes saying the things that matter may build a mindset, give courage or even establish boundaries while forging lasting connections. And then ofcourse endurance is everything. It is rich, it is moving and it is inspiring.

I would give Pachinko a 4.5 on 5. It makes one fall right back in love with reading and without making major shouts its subtlety is hugely winning. The 0.5 less only because I would have wanted a different ending and for not getting rid of Hansu earlier. Such a moron.

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