What does Pachinko, a novel by Min Jin Lee have in common with a roadtrip to Edo State?
Similarities may not readily come to mind, so let me paint a picture for you.
When super agent, Lauren Cerand asked on Twitter who needed copies of Min Jin Lee’s recently released novel, Pachinko, I jumped at the offer. Lauren graciously replied saying she will drop it off at a post office the next working day. Thank you Lauren!
Day after day during the weeks that Pachinko made its way across the waters or airspace between the United States and Nigeria, the anticipation was killing.
Korea meets Benin as Pachinko Goes on a Road Trip
I had read a few novels set in the continent of Asia. Two of them came to me by the way of movie recommendations. There was Marjanne Satrapi’s, Persepolis; Khaled Hosseini’s. “The Kite Runner; and my all-time favorite, Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Novels can transport you free of charge to countries and cultures never before seen or experienced and these three did it for me. I wondered, what effect would Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko” wield over me? A few days before I was to set out for a weekend in Edo State, Pachinko arrived. The perfect road trip partner was finally here.
Leaving chaotic Lagos behind, I delved into the pre and post-war eras in Korea then Japan. I read through the bumpy roads of Epe and was captivated by the goodness of the well-dressed, but sickly gentleman who showed up at the boarding house in Korea. A quick stop at Ore and I was back to the story. Between following Min Jin Lee’s storytelling and taking brief naps, I passed my bus-stop. Still, it was an enjoyable experience. I set a goal to finish a chunk of Pachinko on this trip and it happened.
Quotes from the first 50 pages in Pachinko
Here are some quotes that had me scribbling for a pen and paper in the first 50 pages.
The belly has a better memory than the heart- Page 22
I still remember a meal a friend prepared 5 years ago. The salad, the main with duck, and the desert. I thank them in my heart each day for that belly memory.
You’ll probably spend your entire life here. Yes, she said. This is my home- Page 39
I admire folks who can stay rooted to a place for the long-haul. Can you?
You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when can do whatever he wants. Page 45
This happens all the time. Sigh. Yet, there is something endearing about this sentence construction.
Her father had taught her not to judge people on such shallow points: What a man wore or owned had nothing to do with his heart or character. Page 47
Final Thoughts on Pachinko
Now, I must say that readers should prepare for a long-term commitment to Pachinko as the story covers three generations. I preferred the early years in Busan, Korea to war-torn and recovering Japan. I mean, only a sick minority will prefer war to peace, right?
What about the characters in this novel? I liked most of them. At some moments, I was naively in awe of their suaveness and at their worst, they annoyed me. Who was my favorite? I would have to give it to to the matriarch of the family, Yangjin. Her calm demeanor and sensibleness was the anchor that steadied this plot for decades.
The story was completely unpredictable. I mean, it is impossible to predict what is going to happen to a family in three generations. I enjoyed gaining an insight into the culture from both Korea and Japan. That is my biggest takeaway from Pachinko.
I thought you would like to see some pictures of Benin, Nigeria before you go. You can view them ONLY IF you share which novels you have taken along on a trip and to where.