When you see life from different perspectives and viewpoints, your understanding and perception of life changes. Your view of concepts such as family, humanity, and integrity undergoes a shift. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee depicts this shift through a multi-generational story of a Korean family, their life under the Japanese regime, and their hope to find a home in an unjust world. This New York Times bestseller dives straight into the oppressive and humble lives of the Koreans in the pre-World War I era, which in fact, are better days than what is to come next as the story unfolds.
Pachinko begins with the story of Hoonie, a fisherman’s son, who along with his wife Yangjin runs a small lodge in Yeongdo, a district in Busan. Born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot, Hoonie is a simple man respected by fellow villagers for his conduct and demeanour. Endowed with an undefeated spirit, Hoonie never lets his disability come in the way of his responsibilities and appreciation for life. Yangjin, Hoonie’s dutiful wife, is a quiet and kind person who loves her husband for who he is. The early chapters of the book paint a picture of a family, who learns how to live happily despite troubled times.
Their struggle, as a couple, begins when they try to become parents. Because of Yangjin’s health, their first three babies die prematurely. Their days of sorrow come to an end when their daughter Sujna is born. This is the point when the story shifts to the next generation. It focuses on Sujna’s growing up years, from adolescence to teenage, amid social chaos. Through the character of Sujna, the author has depicted the reality of growing up as a girl in a world torn by wars.