Pachinko by Min Jin Lee - The struggle of destiny

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

“Pachinko” Min Jin Lee is more than a typical family saga based in oriental Korea. It is a story of a woman named Sunja and her family in turbulent time of war between Korea and Japan, where Korean minority in Japan had a really tough life and it is more than worth to read and to learn a bit about it.
Min Jin Lee, an American author, took 12 years in order to write the story of Sunja and all Koreans in those tumultuous time in Japan and history in the background takes important place.

The story begins in 1910 in the small fisher village, and this a time when Japan has annexed Korea. For a young Sunja, life is as good as can be as long she lives with her protective parents who run boarding house for fishermen. But those circumstances changed when her father dies and she needs to help and work really hard together with her mum in order to keep their livings.
Sunja is just 16 and as all girls in her age has her dreams and like all those girls she desires love. It seems for a moment that her dreams comes true when she meets a handsome Hansu, twice older, established and speaking Japanese man. Falling in love with Hansu affects whole her life and from that point Sunja’s being will start to roll and roll without any control but according to her thinking that “the woman’s destiny is suffering”. She needs to leave Korea and begins life in exile in the hostile Japan.
Working hard in foreign land is not enough, she sells kimchi, lives together with her brother in law and his wife in a mini accommodation in the special designed areas where Koreans were allowed to live. She has a child, her husband is in prison and she does not speak Japanese - that sound enough to make life tough but Sunja keeps having hope for a better life for her children. And she does not give up although taking into consideration those circumstances there is no much she can do. Life and destiny of her children are pretty much like pachinko game with balls running without any control and not much chances for winning, saying at the very beginning “History has failed us, but no matter”.

Pachinko is a novel about merciless fate concerning not only Koreans in Japan. This is an universal story about life on immigration, about building life in a place where one always be a stranger. This book is about living life without any chances to belong to the place where on live or where one comes from, but having hope to make that happened for the future generation.

Min Jin Lee in her book has created a very addictive to read combination of historic novel and universal drama tangled in chaotic and not so well known for Westerners historic background.

“Pachinko” was on the list of the best books of the New York Times and was nominated to National Book Award in 2017.


[Norwegian version]
Pachinko av amerikansk forfatter Min Jin Lee er den første boka av hennes og det tok henne 12 år for å skrive den.
Pachinko er ikke en typisk familie saga men den har alt hva man trenger - i forgrunnen en familie som man vil elske, i bakgrunnen en flott historie, som i tillegg, nesten ingen kjenner. Fordi hva vet vi om situasjonen av den koreanske minoritetsgruppen i Japan?

Historien begynner i 1910 i den lille fiskerlandsbyen, da Japan har vedlagt Korea. For ung Sunja er livet så godt som det kan være, så lenge hun bor sammen med sine beskyttende foreldre som driver pensjonat for fiskere. Men disse omstendighetene endrer seg når faren hennes dør, og hun trenger å hjelpe og jobbe veldig hardt sammen med mamma for å holde sine kostnader.
Sunja er bare 16 når hun møter en kjekk Hansu, en etablert man som kan japansk. Hun blir forelsket i ham og det påvirker hele livet hennes. Hun må forlate Korea og begynne livet i eksil i det fientlige Japan.
Å arbeide hardt i et fremmed land er ikke nok, hun selger kimchi, bor sammen med sin svoger og kona hans i en hybel i de spesialdesignede områdene hvor koreanerne fikk lov til å leve. Hun fikk et barn, mannen hennes er i fengsel og hun snakker ikke japansk - det virker nok som et tøft liv, men Sunja gir ikke opp og (hun) håper på et bedre liv for barna sine.

Pachinko er en roman om nådeløs skjebne, den er ikke bare om koreanere i Japan. Denne er en universell historie om livet på innvandring, om å bygge liv på et sted hvor man er alltid en fremmed.
Denne boken handler om livet uten noen muligheter til å tilhøre stedet (der) man bosetter seg i eller der man kommer fra. Men det er alltid håp at det skulle skje for fremtidens generasjon.

Min Jin Lee har skapt en svært vanedannende bøk, en kombinasjon av historisk roman og universelt drama som er sammenblandet i kaotisk og historisk bakgrunn, ved anledningen ukjent til den gjennomsnittlige mottakeren fra Vesten.

“Pachinko” var på listen over de beste bøkene i New York Times og ble nominert til National Book Award i 2017.

Date published: 23 February 2017
Publisher: Apollo, 496 pages
Language: English
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction
ISBN-10: 9781455563937
Reviewer: Monika Barrera
Review rating: 5/5