...[a] stunning novel ... Like most memorable novels, Pachinko resists summary. In this sprawling book, history itself is a character. Pachinko is about outsiders, minorities and the politically disenfranchised. But it is so much more besides ... Despite the compelling sweep of time and history, it is the characters and their tumultuous lives that propel the narrative. Small details subtly reveal the characters’ secret selves and build to powerful moments ... The numerous shifts are occasionally jolting, but what is gained is a compassionate, clear gaze at the chaotic landscape of life itself. In this haunting epic tale, no one story seems too minor to be briefly illuminated.
Pachinko is the kind of book that can open your eyes and fill them with tears at the same time ... We are in Buddenbrooks territory here, tracing a family dynasty over a sprawl of seven decades, and comparing the brilliantly drawn Pachinko to Thomas Mann's classic first novel is not hyperbole. Lee bangs and buffets and pinballs her characters through life, love and sorrow, somehow making her vast, ambitious narrative seem intimate ... Lee deftly sketches a half-familiar, half-foreign but oftentimes harsh new world of a Korean immigrant in imperialist Japan ... This is honest writing, fiction that looks squarely at what is, both terrible and wonderful.
In Pachinko, history serves as a backdrop for narratives of resilience and loss, and major historical disturbances are treated with understatement ... Lee shines in highlighting the complexities of being an immigrant and striving for a better life when resigned to a second-class status. In particular, she explores the mechanisms of internalized oppression and the fraught position of being a 'well-behaved' member of a maligned group ... Throughout Pachinko, it’s acts of kindness and love. The slow accumulation of those moments create a home to return to again and again, even in the worst of times.