Good novels come to readers who wait.
Fans of novelist Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires have been waiting a long time for her second book, Pachinko, and the decade of patience is rewarded. Pachinko is everything I want in a family saga novel, a deep dive immersion into a complete world full of rich and complex lives to follow as they tumble towards fate and fortune.
The book opens with, “History has failed us, but no matter.” Starting in 1910, during the time of Korea’s annexation by Japan (a history that I failed to learn about until reading the novel), we follow 80 years in the life of a family, from humble beginnings in a small village in Korea to the shimmering sights and sounds of big cities in Japan. Characters are swept up in historical forces, such as World War II, and profoundly changed by medical realities like cleft palate, infant death and tuberculosis, which today don’t have the same impact.
Don’t be intimidated by this almost-500 page book. Try the first chapter, only several pages long, and you’ll see: Pachinko will break your heart in all the right ways.