July 2019 Book Club Discussion Questions: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Who’s ready for our next Pingel Sisters book club discussion? Find out the Pachinko discussion questions for the month and when all the fun begins!

Welcome to our Pingel Sisters book club discussion!

Hopefully, you are enjoying reading our July book club pick. I finished it earlier this month and am so glad we picked it. Don’t worry, it’s okay if you didn’t love it as much as I did.

Discussion on our July book club pick won’t open for a few weeks, but we wanted to give you a heads up on the discussion questions we will be covering. Hope to hear back from you soon!

And the beauty of an online book club is that it doesn’t matter if you are free when discussion begins. Come back anytime that week to add your input to our book club discussion questions. Also, no need to dress up, or even get dressed, to join the conversation. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing.

Excited to hear everyone’s thoughts!

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July 2019 Book Club Pick

Book cover for Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

by Min Jin Lee

When she finds out she is pregnant, Sunja, beloved daughter of a local fisherman, realizes her perfect lover is actually married. Refusing to remain a mistress, she rejects his offer to take care of her and her child. Instead, she agrees to marry a gentle but sickly minister whom she follows to Japan where the struggle to live as Korean immigrants. Mixing a family saga with the history of Korean-Japanese relations, Pachinko is a sweeping novel of the early 1900s. Read more →

Find on:  Goodreads Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository

Discussion Rules

Let’s lay down some ground rule for our book club.

  1. You are not required to like the book.
  2. Keep it civil. Don’t attack other people’s opinions. We want discussion, not a shouting match.
  3. No profanity. Let’s keep it clean and family friendly.
  4. Engage with the other comments. We want to build a community of readers.
  5. Have fun!

Disclaimer: You are not required to leave an email address when you leave a comment. For more information on how we process your information and our comment policy, read our Disclosures.

Pachinko Discussion Questions

View Pachinko Discussion Questions as a PDF

Question 1: Rating

Did you like Pachinko? Why or why not? Please be specific about what made you like it or dislike it?

I love learning about new cultures, so in that regard I really enjoyed Pachinko. I had no true understanding of the relationship between Japan and Korea, so Min Jin Lee’s fictional account really brought home to me many of the factors in play when dealing with such a complex history. I loved how she layered on the nuance of the feelings of Japanese-born Koreans. Life is never black and white, so I’m glad she painted a more realistic picture.


Question 2: Title

Of all the possible titles, why do you think Min Jin Lee chose Pachinko?

My guess is that Min Jin Lee is saying that life is really a game of chance. Who our parents are, and what happens to use can be a complete toss-up. What we can control is how we deal with what life throws at us. We can decided whether to continue to gamble, or whether to call it a night. We have some control over how we view our own life, and a negative view over life never made it any better.


Question 3: Theme

Sunja is repeatedly told that a woman’s life is pain and suffering? Do you feel the woman of the novel suffered more than the men? By the end of her life, do you think Sunja would pass this advice on to the next generation?

Although Sunja’s own life held plenty of pain, I hope that she would not pass on the advice that a woman’s life is pain and suffering. I think pain and suffering is part of any life, but how you let that suffering affect you determines the life you have. Yes, the woman had it hard, but so did the men. Poor Isak had to endure all those years in prison. Noa had to deal with feeling out of place – not fully Korean or Japanese. Mosazu had to deal with the death of his wife and raising a child on his own. Yoseb’s life had just as much suffering, though because he took it badly, his life turned out much worse than Sunja’s. 


Question 4: Shame

Shame is an underlying theme throughout the book. How did shame affect the choices of the different characters?

Every single character’s made at least one major decision based on shame. Yet, interestingly enough, those decisions sometimes turned out horribly and sometimes didn’t. Sunja was ashamed to be pregnant and unmarried, so she married Isak – a decision that ended up being great for her. On the other hand, Noa was so ashamed of his parentage that he through his whole life away to live a lie pretending to be Japanese – a decision that eventually led to his death. 


Question 5: Read with Intention

What was one thing in particular that struck you about Pachinko?

Out of everyone, Yoseb’s character probably struck me the most. In all, he was definitely the most changed from the beginning to the end. He started out so generous, though prideful to a fault. Feeling that he had to be the caretaker, he refused to let anyone else help, which made him bitter when others stepped up to share responsibility. If only he had been willing to share the burden, the fortunes of both families could have been vastly different. Instead, he took their strength as an emphasis on his weakness, and became bitter, hard, and began to lose everything that he had.

How often are we like that? We adopt a scarcity mindset and take the success of others to mean less for us. If only we could be willing to say, there is more than enough to spare, how much more could we achieve?


Question 6: Length

At almost 500 pages, Pachinko is a rather hefty novel. Do you feel like the story justified the page count? What parts would you have cut out, and what stories would you have preferred more of?

In all, I felt like Pachinko could have been quite a bit shorter without really dampening its effect. I was not as much interested in the lives of Sunja’s children and grandchildren when they were adults, however, I can see how they each played their own roles in showing how mixed emotions were for these Japanese-born Koreans who had never been to Korea.

Particularly, I felt some of the side stories were pointless. For example, I especially did not like the divergence into the life of Haruki and his wife. Their sexuality and relationship was a complete tangent; it wasn’t developed enough to bring any meaning into the story, but was delved into long enough to be a major diversion.

I’m not against the length, per se, but I do feel it could have been better if it had been parsed down a bit.


Excited to hear everyone’s thoughts!

Book Club Discussion Questions: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

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