Pachinko, by Min Lin Lee.
Pachinko, by Min Lin Lee. Grand Central Publishing (2017). 496 pages.
A historical novel about a Korean family who migrates to Japan where they face discrimination even after they succeed financially.
Min Lin Lee was born in South Korea and came to the United States with her parents in 1976 when she was seven. Her family owned a wholesale jewelry store in Queens. She attended Yale and Georgetown Law School, was a corporate lawyer, and lived in Japan as an adult. Her previous novel was Free Food for Millionaires.
Pachinko begins in a coastal village in Korea in 1910 and continues into the post-world-war-II era in Japan. The central character is Sunja, a young woman who refuses to marry the man by whom she becomes pregnant. Instead she marries a Korean man, migrating to Japan with him. He is a missionary to other Koreans there, and she has a second son with him. Their family unites with those of an older brother to struggle with poverty, uncertainty, and discrimination though the world war. Eventually the sons prosper through management positions in the pachinko parlors, which feature a particular Korean-style pinball machines. Although the family becomes wealthy, they are never treated as equal to the Japanese.
I appreciated the book as a story of migration and ill-treatment that features a country other than the United States. The writing of the book weakened its appeal as literature. This is a big book in both pages and characters; there is little sense of unity. Neither the characters or the plot were well-developed, leaving the reader with little sense of why people acted as they did. Subplots were introduced and then left hanging. Family members simply and inexplicably got very rich by being good human beings. Gay and lesbian themes were handled in a stereotypical manner.
I cannot recommend a book this poorly written.