Hmm…I don’t know what to say about this book. It’s split into three books (parts), and that’s exactly what it felt like: three separate – yet related – parts. The only reason the three books felt cohesive at all is because it followed the same characters throughout each book, but I didn’t feel like the prose flowed throughout at all.
Book One was slow and basically boring for me. I know longer books really take the time to develop the characters and the scene, but 150 pages was just overkill for me. I had to force myself to keep reading – and I only did that because Pachinko has such rave reviews and so many people on #bookstagram told me to keep pushing through.
I liked the Second Book the most – it made me contemplate some deep thoughts. I appreciate that in a book. I like to be challenged and navigate those parts of me that I take for granted – test them a little and see if they stand up to pressure. Book two did all of those things for me and I was so happy!
It was during this book that the matriarch’s, Sunja’s choices really came into question by one of her sons, Noa. It was heartbreaking to read Noa’s perspective on his mother’s decisions. From another person’s perspective, you can only see the surface level of those decisions – you have no way of knowing all the underlying things that led to the choices you may make. Sunja had her children’s best interests at heart all the time, and because of circumstances beyond her control (war/lack of money/illness/etc), she was forced to make decisions in order to preserve the lives she envisioned for her kids. Once some of those choices came to light, Noa was unwilling to hear his mother’s side to understand and he was unwilling to forgive her. I think it hit my mama’s heart hard because it made me think about the choices and decisions I have made and may face in the future that could make my children so upset with me that they disown me.
Book Three was better than one, but couldn’t stand up to two. Suddenly, things moved quickly and there were SO MANY characters introduced. As a reader, you invested so much time in the ‘main’ characters and then they sort of just get dropped and we gain and handful of new characters. The underlying theme of book three got much more vulgar and and didn’t add to the story at all. Most of the new characters were unnecessary and distracted from what should have been a wrap-up for this multigenerational saga. Lastly, the book just sort of…ended. No wrap up, nothing. Just done. I HATE that in a book. I HATE when it feels like the author says, Shoot! I’m at 485 pages; I better end it. And the way this book ended felt like that.
Overall, I’m glad I read this book – probably ONLY because of the connection I made to Book Two. I would only recommend it with a lot of fair warnings. Min Jin Lee is a talented writer and many times I felt lost in her descriptions. I remember thinking that I was reading some of the most beautiful words…but it just didn’t stack up to the whole book grabbing me. If you’ve read this one, what did you think?