The game of pachinko is little like pinball and little like a slot machine. You don’t need to know much more about the game other than to understand that the machines are manipulated in much the same way the slot machines are programmed. To favor the house at all times but to allow enough winning to make the thing addictive. There is always hope.
- a slight hope but hope none the less and that is the lesson that the characters have to take away.
The main character in Pachinko, Sunja, is a wonderful woman, the sort you’d like have as a friend. What starts as a disaster (out-of-wedlock pregnancy) turns into a saga of life in a foreign land and a deep only slightly sentimental exploration of the love of a mother for her sons. (and grandson.) The story spans nearly a century and containing a huge cast of characters (4 generations) all related to Sunja.
Though out the story we see her devotion to her children and her relationships with the fathers of her sons, the shadowy presence at all times of the father of her oldest son — a yakuza boss, and the gentle reality of man she married and the father of her younger son — a slight, sickly preacher. The pachinko parlors that were the source of wealth for many Koreans and the prejudice of the Japanese against ethic Koreans even after years of assimilation all come together to shape the lives of the characters.
* sagas can be lovely if the author brings you to love the families *