Pachinko

Jin Min Lee

I’ve never played pachinko or seen a machine outside of travelogs of Japan, but it looks like fun. All those little steels balls bouncing down among the pegs to land at the bottom. It probably isn’t so much fun for the little balls being knocked around and bouncing off the pegs. I wonder if that is how life felt for the main characters of this novel. The woman Sunja is jerked from her home in Korea and lands in Japan, the wife of a Christian minister, carrying a child that is not his. Unable to speak Japanese, she works hard to make a home for her husband and her child. The story of her efforts and the lives of her two children are the main thread that runs through the book.

It is the brilliant writing and detached attitude that prevents this book from descending into soap opera. We are with Sunja every step of the way and rooting for her to succeed. Through loss and war, good times and bed, she perseveres until she finds her own level of peace.

The Condor Passes

Shirley Ann Grau

19709011

I felt reading this book was a duty rather than a pleasure. It felt very old-fashioned to me, but I had heard of it and felt I should check it out. It was only $1.99, so what did I have to lose? It held my interest, but the story of a multi-generational family in New Orleans didn’t seem fresh or innovative to me. In fact the only character I was really interested in reading about was the black factotum.

This story may have been new and exciting in 1971, but it reads like warmed-over grits today. The writing is excellent, but the story is tired.