Reviews

Praise for Pachinko

This is a captivating book I read at the suggestion of a young staffer on my team — a historical novel about the Korean immigrant experience in wartime Japan. Min Jin Lee’s novel takes us through four generations and each character’s search for identity and success. It’s a powerful story about resilience and compassion.”
– President Barack Obama
Lee’s stunning novel, her second, chronicles four generations of an ethnic Korean family, first in Japanese-occupied Korea in the early 20th century, then in Japan itself from the years before World War II to the late 1980s. Exploring central concerns of identity, homeland and belonging, the book announces its ambitions right from the opening sentence: “History has failed us, but no matter.” Lee suggests that behind the facades of wildly different people lie countless private desires, hopes and miseries, if we have the patience and compassion to look and listen.”
– New York Times Ten Best Books - Editors of The New York Times Book Review.
Min Jin Lee’s stunning novel “Pachinko” — her second, after “Free Food for Millionaires” (2007) — announces its ambitions right from the opening sentence: “History has failed us, but no matter.””
– Krys Lee for the New York Times
Beautiful…Lee’s sweeping four-generation saga of a Korean family is an extraordinary epic.”
– San Francisco Chronicle
If proof were needed that one family’s story can be the story of the whole world, then Pachinko offers that proof. Min Jin Lee’s novel is gripping from start to finish, crossing cultures and generations with breathtaking power. Pachinko is a stunning achievement, full of heart, full of grace, full of truth.”
– Erica Wagner, author of Ariel’s Gift and Seizure
Astounding. The sweep of Dickens and Tolstoy applied to a 20th century Korean family in Japan. Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko tackles all the stuff most good novels do—family, love, cabbage—but it also asks questions that have never been more timely. What does it mean to be part of a nation? And what can one do to escape its tight, painful, familiar bonds?”
– Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Little Failure and Super Sad True Love Story
Top 10 Books of February of the Canadian Library Association’s Loan Stars Program”
– Toronto Star
Through it all is a message about love, faith, and the deep-rooted bonds of family. Min Jin Lee gives us a phenomenal story about one family’s struggle that resonates with us today. It will take hold of you and not let go!”
– American Booksellers Association: INDIE NEXT Great Reads Feb 2017 (Jennifer Steele, Boswell Book Company)
50 Most Anticipated Books of 2017”
– Nylon
PACHINKO is about paying dues to a forgotten history; to the complex and fraught Japan-Korea relationship that endured well into the 90s and lingers to this day. But it doesn’t wear its heart—or historical truths—on its sleeve. What drives this novel is the magisterial force of Lee’s characterization; her ability to ground the narrative deeply and intimately in the details of daily life. Also threaded through it are questions of home, identity, nationhood and tradition—including the belief of its female protagonists that ‘a woman’s lot is to suffer.’”
– South China Morning Post by Bron Sibree
Most Anticipated Book Club Reads of 2017 and Biggest Historical Fiction Release of 2017”
– BookBub.com
Most Exciting Books Coming in 2017”
– Buzzfeed.com
Lee makes it impossible not to develop tender feelings towards her characters—all of them, even the most morally compromised. Their multifaceted engagements with identity, family, vocation, racism, and class are guaranteed to provide your most affecting sobfest of the year. (Maria Cristina Garcia Lynch)”
– Book Riot: Most Anticipated Books 2017
Ten Books to Read in 2017”
– BBC.com (Culture) Jane Ciabattari
A beautifully crafted story of love, loss, determination, luck, and perseverance.”
Library Journal (Starred Review)
Deeply compelling story. An old-fashioned epic whose simple, captivating storytelling delivers both wisdom and truth.”
Kirkus (Starred Review)
Both for those who love Korea, as well as for those who know no more than Hyundai, Samsung and kimchi, this extraordinary book will prove a revelation of joy and heartbreak. I could not stop turning the pages, and wished this most poignant of sagas would never end. Min Jin Lee displays a tenderness and wisdom ideally matched to an unforgettable tale that she relates just perfectly.”
– Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman and Korea: A Walk through the Land of Miracles
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is a great book, a passionate story, a novel of magisterial sweep. It’s also fiendishly readable—the real deal. An instant classic, a quick page-turner, and probably the best book of the year.”
– Darin Strauss, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Half a Life and Chang & Eng
A deep, broad, addictive history of a Korean family in Japan enduring and prospering through the 20th century.”
– David Mitchell, New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks, Cloud Atlas, and Black Swan Green
Pachinko is elegant and soulful, both intimate and sweeping. This story of several generations of one Korean family in Japan is the story of every family whose parents sacrificed for their children, every family whose children were unable to recognize the cost, but it’s also the story of a specific cultural struggle in a riveting time and place. Min Jin Lee has written a big, beautiful book filled with characters I rooted for and cared about and remembered after I’d read the final page.”
– Kate Christensen, Pen/Faulkner-winning author of The Great Man and Blue Plate Special
Luminous…a powerful meditation on what immigrants sacrifice to achieve a home in the world. This story confirms Lee’s place among our finest novelists.”
– Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her

Praise for Free Food for Millionaires

This accomplished first novel, the coming-of-age story of a Princeton-educated Korean-American woman making her way in New York City in the 1990s, recalls the Victorian novels its heroine devours. Our reviewer, Liesl Schillinger, described it as ‘packed with tales of flouted parental expectations, fluctuating female friendships and rivalries,…romantic hopes and losses, and high-stakes career gambles.’”
New York Times
The Five-Forty-Five to Cannes (Crown) by Tess Uriza Holthe; Free Food for Millionaires (Warner) by Min Jin Lee; The Gathering (Black Cat/Grove) by Anne…”
– San Francisco Chronicle
In her first novel, Free Food for Millionaires, Min Jin Lee largely succeeds in unraveling the story of postcollege, Korean immigrant Casey Han, who is still challenged by her family traditions while striving for acceptance and personal fulfillment in the largely assimilated world of New York high finance. As the main character’s life unfolds, Lee masterfully reveals the fallible interpersonal relationships that define Han’s struggle. She also manages to tell the story from multiple perspectives, allowing the characters richness and authenticity that is often missing in the single point of view.”
– Psychiatric Services, A Journal of the American Psychiatric Association
Free Food for Millionaires is different from any book I’ve ever read — a big, juicy, commercial Korean-American coming-of-age novel, one that could spawn a satisfying miniseries, and one that definitely belongs in this summer’s beach bag.”
– Entertainment Weekly
Weighing in at a mammoth 560 pages, Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires is…”
– Northwestasianweekly.com
Min Jin Lee, in her first novel, paints a vast New York landscape that brings to mind…”
– Politics-Prose.com
As the face of America becomes stunningly diverse, the need for competent cultural translators grows apace…Now, in her first novel, Korean-American writer Min Jin Lee helps us understand Koreans as they grapple to grab the first rung of the economic ladder.”
– Historywire.com
Min Jin Lee gets into the heads of a dry cleaner operator and a Julliard alumnus, an aging bookstore owner and a stockbroker on Wall Street. …”
– Bookreporter.com
Casey, the fictional character at the heart of Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires, can’t quite figure out how to fit her upper-class tastes into the world of her parents, Korean immigrants who work for a dry cleaning chain.”
– Eugeneweekly.com
The life and times of a Korean American girl from Queens who goes to Princeton…”
– Lonestarlibrarian
Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food for Millionaires, one of my favorite books this year, will be appearing at US-Korea Institute of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) next week, and Olsson’s will be…”
– Olsson’s Bookstore
Then comes Min Jin Lee and her acclaimed new novel Free Food for Millionaires, which takes a Jane Austen-type look at love, education…”
– Asia Pacific Arts
But Min Jin Lee is unrelentingly fair to her characters, letting us into their heads….”
– Outofthewoods.com
Leave your world behind and explore this story set against an interesting cultural backdrop. This is a book I thought about often at work, and could not wait to get home and dive into the story …”
– Jen’s Book Reviews
On the fiction front, I just read Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee, in one fell swoop. It’s (a huge book) about Ivy League-educated Korean Americans in New York City. I stayed up until 4 am because it is a subtle page-turner…”
– Whatarewritersreading
Free Food for Millionaires is different from any book I’ve ever read—a big, juicy, commercial Korean American coming-of-age novel, one that could spawn a satisfying miniseries, and one that definitely belongs in this summer’s beach bag.”
– Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly
Summer Picks from The Boston Herald”
– Pattinase
Five years ago we published a story called “Motherland” by an emerging author named Min Jin Lee. We were unanimous in our admiration of what was later selected as the best fiction of that volume year. It’s the story of a Japanese woman…”
– The Missouri Review
This new title, published 1 July, by Korean American writer Min Jin Lee is causing a stir…”
– Beattiesbookblog
Novelist Min Jin Lee offers us the chance to see this entire culture, up close, personal and far more sympathetically. The book focuses on the emotional and…”
– St. Louis Dispatch
Free Food for Millionaires is the best novel I’ve read in a long time. I’m sad to be finished and I desperately miss Casey Han - a perfectly imperfect character whose loyalty, chutzpah and great hats make her someone I wish I knew in real life.”
– Elisabeth Egan, Self, Contributing Books Editor
Critic’s pick: Free Food for Millionaires, by Min Jin Lee (Grand Central, $13.99). USA TODAY’s Carol Memmott says this “vastly ambitious” and “stirring””
– USA Today
This accomplished first novel, the coming-of-age story of a Princeton-educated Korean-American woman making her way in New York City in the 1990s, recalls the Victorian novels its heroine devours. Our reviewer, Liesl Schillinger, described it as ‘packed with tales of flouted parental expectations, fluctuating female friendships and rivalries, … romantic hopes and losses, and high-stakes career gambles.”
New York Times