A review by koreanlinda
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

challenging dark emotional informative inspiring reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


I want to warn all Koreans. Do not read this book. No. Read this book, but be prepared to get your heartbroken, over and over and over again. If you are not Korean, read this book. It will give you a heartfelt understanding of the struggles that millions of Koreans have lived with on their own land and in their neighboring ones. 

Warning: People die in this book, and every death will break your heart like it broke Min Jin Lee, the author. What ached my heart more than the people who died was the people who didn’t and stayed alive because their lives were sometimes worse than being dead. 

‘Women are meant to suffer’ is a repeated line by women in this story. It tears my heart to witness the greatness in their full acceptance of their hardship and their persistence to make the most out of their dire situations. One thing that this book has thought me is that my ancestors were strong women who survived extremely cruel circumstances. 

Pachinko reminded me of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi because both stories run through multiple generations. Pachinko is about people who moved from Korea to Japan during the Japanese occupation. Homegoing is about people who were taken from Africa to the United States in slavery. While these historical events can't be compared on an equal ground, I saw in both groups of people that trauma gets passed down and the only way it gets better is through care for each other. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. 

I deeply appreciate the author for writing this book. The story of Korean people who suffered in Japan is not told enough. Although my heart got raw, I am glad I was able to hear their stories through this book.

Review by Linda (she/they)
Twitter @KoreanLinda
Letter writer at DefinitelyNotOkay.com 

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