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Welcome to the Website of J. E. (Jack) O'Rourke, P.E., F.ASCE, fiction writer, geotechnical engineer, and artist (painting, printmaking, graphics).


Pachinko Review

I am still working on designing my website, and have tentatively linked to my book reviews on Goodreads.com website. The most recent review, automatically retrieved by linking, is as follows:

PachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got totally absorbed in this book. Set in Korea and Japan, it tells the story of two closely knit families, through marriage, and their struggles to achieve at least a very basic livlihood, and, if possible, to lift themselves up from near-poverty conditions. The story begins in the post-war years of the fifties, in a small boarding house on the coast in South Korea. A middle-aged woman, Yangzin, works morning till night, aided by her teen-aged daughter and two young servant girls, to do the laundry, cooking, and upkeep needed for themselves and four fishermen boarders in their tiny two room house. Everyone is near starving and very poor in the war torn country. The young daughter is noticed by a well to do wholesale fish merchant in the nearby town, where the girl goes often to shop for their household. The fish monger, Hansu, rescues her from an assault by young Japanese students, and she becomes enamored of Hansu. The relationship grows in secret, until a young Christian minister from North Korea, Isak, stops by the boarding house, en route to visit his brother working in Japan. While they nurse Isak to a partial recovery, the young girl, Sunja, confesses her relationship with Hansu to her mother. Isak also becomes aware of Sunja's difficulty, but proposes marriage to her, out of genuine affection. Sunja agrees, and they travel together to Osaka, Japan, to live with Isak's brother Yoseb, and his wife, Kyunghee. Koreans live in very dire conditions in Japan, but they can get work there, and Yoseb nurtures his families meager incomes. Sunja has a son early on, Solomon, and eventually Sunja again encounters Hansu in Japan. He is now a Yakuza chief, a sort of Mafia don, and wants to enter Sunja's life again, and help with her son. Sunja refuses, but the interfaces between the characters and the dire circumstances of their lives create many tensions. Sunja has another child with Isak, Mozasu, and life becomes harder. Hansu eventually gets Solomon into a leading university, and Mozasu chooses to seek his own success by entering the pachinko (game arcade) business. There are many emotional linkages in this novel, and not a few tragedies, but the reader is rewarded with a powerful novel.

View all my reviews This Goodreads linkage seems like a handy attribute, and I shall probably continue to make use of this feature on this home page.