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Pachinko

Written by: Min Jin Lee
Narrated by: Allison Hiroto
Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (84 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A new tour de force from the best-selling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for fans of A Fine Balance and Cutting for Stone.

Profoundly moving and gracefully told, Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.

So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja's family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep roots as their family faces enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

©2017 Min Jin Lee (P)2017 Hachette Audio

What the critics say

"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)
"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 best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman and Korea: A Walk through the Land of Miracles)
"A deep, broad, addictive history of a Korean family in Japan enduring and prospering through the 20th century." ( The Guardian)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story, mismatched narration

This is an extraordinarily well written and moving story. I finished the book a week ago and am still thinking about the characters and the history of Korea-Japan relations.
However, the narration doesn't match the tone of the story and takes away from its depth and richness. At one point the narration was so jarring and distracting that I had to stop listening and start reading the book, which was a good call.

Summary: Magnificent book but the narration doesn't fit the tone and can take the listener out of the story at times.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Have to agree with other readers...

I have to agree that the reader was a poor choice. The story is great; however, the voice would be more appropriate for a young child’s book. The readers voice, lack of inflection, and tone just didn’t fit the story and negatively impacted my enjoyment.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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MUST READ

I absolutely LOVED this book and LOVED the narration too. I was slightly worried about reading this book because some of the reviews said the narration took away from the story, but I didn't find that AT ALL. Narration was well done and I found it complimented the story.

This book is a must read.......I couldn't stop listening.

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Review

Very well written and one of the best book I read this year. It helps me to understand the struggles that the Korean Japanese had gone through.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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excellent book . well crafted and very informative

excellent book. well researched and crafted. enjoyed the reader very much. have already recommended to friends and will purchase fur gift

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved it

Well narrated and great characters. I love it all. #Audible1. The only thing I would say that could have been improved is the character development during the last part of the book.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Sweeping epic let down by story telling

The historical aspect of this story was fascinating and the characters were great, but I really felt the very linear story telling let the book down . And the narration! I felt like a I was being read a child’s bedtime story. The narrator put inflections in strange places and the tone was that of a “once upon a time” tale. It is a testament to the characters written that I cared enough to keep listening. If the narration doesn’t bother you then it’s a good book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Must read and listen!

Wonderfully written and narrated historical fiction. I enjoyed the characters and story throughout the years.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Simple, gripping, beautiful

This is one of the most perfectly crafted, beautiful novels I have ever read. The story and language are surprisingly simple and unadorned, with small pockets of intense emotion scattered throughout the novel. The final pages are incredibly impactful.

I first heard listen to Allison Hiroto narrate 1Q84 by Murakami several years ago and immediately loved her voice and style. Her audiobook repertoire is small, so I wasn't able to have the pleasure of listening to her again until I started Pachinko. His clear, unusual voice is perfectly suited to narrating this beautiful tale. An excellent choice on the part of the producers.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mimi
  • 2019-05-22

Sweeping story but uneven

This novel was a compelling read and I learned a lot about Koreans in Japan. I had read in other places about the difficulties of becoming a Japanese citizen if you were an expatriate, even if you were born in Japan. The novel is sprawling in the time that it covers and the characters. I wished it was less broadly based and more narrowly focus since I don't think I found out much about the interior lives and personalities of the characters. I ended up thinking they were all a little blank save for their hard work and perseverance. While that may make an interesting read, it did not captivate me in the ways I would have wanted it. Plot lines were elaborated only to be dropped, the death of some of the main characters are mentioned but that is all. I kept asking myself what the author wanted to impart and I can't say for sure I know. The narration was really good though, both in Korean and Japanese.

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Jennifer
  • 2019-04-22

Reminder I Should Read Reviews

So I don't have much new to add compared to other reviews. This is like an early version of a novel on Scrivener. Character sketches for every single totally irrelevant character that we run into. Telling without any, not ANY, showing. Also, getting near the point where things like deaths or other potentially emotional scenes could happen, and then skipping to some time in the future where it already happened, but we don't even get to be TOLD about it. Then there's a most incredibly ridiculous complete about-face that happens with a character, a very main character, that is not at all believable. I don't know if this ever gets resolved because I had to stop listening because it was just so bad. Don't waste your money!!

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • erin
  • 2017-12-11

wonderful book

loved the story but wish Audible could have found a Korean American or anybody who could pronounce Korean words correctly.
it was disappointing to hear some Korean words pronounced incorrectly.

136 of 150 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tracy
  • 2017-02-27

nice story narration was off putting

the story was great but the narrator sounds child like. it takes a few hours to get used to her voice, inflection, and tonality. sometimes it seemed like she was reading a childrens book.

83 of 93 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • NMwritergal
  • 2018-04-05

And this was nominated for awards because...?

I enjoyed the first half of the book in spite of the simplistic prose and awful audio performer (who narrated as if she were reading to five-year-olds). Sunja's story and the characters who populate her life (in particular her sister-in-law and husband) were engaging.

But halfway though, the book started to completely fall apart. Huge jumps in time made the story feel fractured. Characters who have little to do with anything get their stories told in a couple of chapters and then disappear. A major character commits suicide (literally one line is devoted to it) and that's about it until near the end of the book when there's about a paragraph. The meeting, marriage, and death (of one character) happen in one chapter. Another major character is absent from the book for years, pops back in briefly, and is gone again. Sunja herself is largely absent in the second half.

Also what was odd and jarring was the constant the badly written objectification of women and all the sex. In these cases, modern terms were used to describe the women (almost always crude) and the same goes with sex. The descriptions of sexual encounters read more like bad erotica or pornography. The story starts in the early 1900s, the audio narrator sounds like she's reading to kids, and then there's all these badly written sex scenes? It was just creepy and strange. Nobody ever had sex or made love, they ONLY f***ed. There's a difference between the three, and I'm mystified as to why the author didn't manage to use the appropriate term for what the encounter was, because it wasn't just f***ing. And even if it was, was that word (which I don't object to in any way) around in the early 1900s and in common use? Was this a book in translation (that was poorly translated)? Does the author not know anything about sex? I'm pretty sure a computer algorithm would have done a better job on those parts. Where was the editor?

The book could have used more historical context as well. I was interested in what was there, but it wasn't enough for me. I would have loved to hear the history of pachinko. It's the name of the book, but pachinko doesn't even show up till hour 9 and then there's very little history or description.

The book started off as 3 stars and ended at one star, so I guess I'll give it 2. But my advice would be not to invest a credit and 16 hours of your life to this novel.

190 of 215 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Mother of Two
  • 2018-11-08

Horrible narrator

I was really looking forward to listening to this book but the narrator ruined it for me. It sounds as if she is speaking to a kindergarten classroom. Such a shame. I couldnt get beyond the first couple of chapters.

79 of 89 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • DM
  • 2018-01-02

Reads like an apprentice novel

Min Jin Lee has an agenda, to be sure, to explore the meaning of ethnic and gender identity amidst conflicts of war, colonization, economic devastation, and so on. Unfortunately, the perspective is neither original or interestingly narrated. Filled with wooden dialog and a plethora of irrelevant detail, the book should not have made the NYTimes list of the ten best novels of 2017.

47 of 53 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Laura
  • 2017-03-23

Historically interesting, but...

Narrator had sweet voice but not suited to story. Into the book, some profanity and descriptions of sexual encounters were either not credible or seemed that way because of the narration.

49 of 56 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Summer
  • 2018-05-15

Awkward and simple

This novel portrays the pitfalls of an author writing a story in a setting she knows very little about, especially while covering such a vast timeframe. The book is awkward - numerous evidences of the author’s ignorance and insufficient research are scattered throughout the book - from, for example, the excessive and inappropriate usage of “ne” in speech combined with the omission of the Osaka dialect, a character’s choice of university (why not Doshisha, a Christian university of a similar standing as Waseda in the Kansai region, or even another closer, cheaper and better public university?), no reference to the policies of the GHQ (the occupation led by General MacArthur) and their interplay with the Korean conflict and the lives of zainichi (in Japan) Koreans after WWII, a character’s end (guns are extremely rare in Japan), no reference to the differences on views towards zainichi Koreans between the Kansai and Kanto regions, etc. and the more mundane descriptions such as reference to dowry (there exists no Japanese custom of bride or bride’s family giving money/assets to the husband’s family) and cooking in peanut oil (no peanut oil in traditional Japanese home cooking). The list continues. It seems the author relied excessively on assumptions and hence scattered inaccuracies all over (what did the editor do?). This is very unfortunate particularly because the story takes up a theme that should be told.

Other than such awkwardness, I felt the book had insufficient character development or rather, simple characters, and partly as a result, the story was simplistic. It lacked the complexity it could have had given the historic background of the time, the length of the story and the timeframe it covered, as well as its theme.

78 of 90 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Zoe
  • 2017-09-04

Too Much Telling

Not only is there too much telling in this novel, it is too long. Much of the dialogue is stilted and some of the sex scenes seem gratuitous. Still, some of the characters are compelling.

31 of 36 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • nur kusumanindyah
  • 2019-06-01

Incredibly touching !!

The storyline of a Korean immigrant struggle may resonates with us even to this day

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Callope
  • 2018-01-20

Riveting, grabbing- just beautiful

Utterly beautiful while educational too. Thought-provoking and emotionally riveting. Definitely something those with little idea of Asia other than brash Takeaway stereotypes need to read (or listen to). It's a book that will entertain you and mark you for years to come. I couldn't recommend it more.