A big sprawling family saga! My kind of book!! And it covers injustice to an ethnic minority in a major nation.
A young Koreen couple arrives in Japan not long before World War II. The wife is carrying a child that the husband knows is not his–and it will be born “too early” for the date of their marriage. Did I mention he’s a Presbyterian pastor? A pastor who was trained, supposedly, by the same Presbyterian church and mission school that Ruth Bell Graham attende din North Korea? [Yes, she was Billy Graham’s wife].
The point of the story is to tell of the historic injustice of Japan’s treatment of both Korea and of Koreans who live in Japan. The idiocy of a second generation, Japan-born ethnic Korean having to have a passport issued by South Korea. Oh, and how such people managed to earn a living and live decent lives in Japan.
What I Loved
I loved that the book portrayed Christians in a very respectful way. This is so rare in fiction today (outside of the niche market of Christian fiction, of course).
I loved the grit and survival instincts the characters employed to make real lives for themselves in very trying circumstances.
I loved that most characters led lives in tune with the morals and societal conventions of the time of the story’s setting (which ran from pre-World War II to the late 1980s).
I loved that characters had thoughts and dreams, for the most part, about something other than just their sex lives (I’m truly sick to death of that).
What I Disliked
I added that “for the most part” comment for a reason: The park voyeur scenes and that character’s sexual fantasy. Yes, this is a SPOILER. ICK! Just ICK. Too often, I wonder if the author REALLY wanted scenes like this in their book or if they a) put it in to sell it or b) were required to add it to sell it. The “titillating” or “shocking” sex scene really does NOT sell books to anyone over about junior high age anymore, I’m sure, because it has been DONE TO DEATH. Masturbation was the most recent topic, now we’ve moved on to voyeurism. Spare me. I cannot stand when all a novel tells us is how the characters like to achieve a you-know-what.
Thankfully, in Pachinko, this was a small part of a couple of chapters–a blip in the narrative. I skipped some of it and was in no way lost for the rest of the story.
In addition, I despised one late-in-the-story young women. I wanted to slap her. Maybe even throat punch her. She was awful. But she was a small part of the story.
Two small discordant notes in an otherwise excellent book. In spite of these two elements, I was pleased to see that this had been nominated for a prestigious award. Nonetheless, they took my rating down a full star.