Min Jin Lee Pages: 489 Published: 2017
The book: This is an epic saga spanning four generations of a Korean family. The story begins in early 1900s Korea and ends in Japan in the late 1980s. We move from rural Korea, before and during the country’s occupation by the Japanese, to Japan, where the family tries to build a new life while facing discrimination from the locals. Lee weaves history and the personal stories of characters together beautifully.
You might like it because: Min Jin Lee’s writing is a delight to read. She uses detail deftly to bring to life her characters, the lives they lead, and the places they live in a way that seems effortless to the reader. It’s a wonderful story of love, family, tragedy, and a determination to survive in the face of discrimination and prejudice.
What did other people say?
“This is honest writing, fiction that looks squarely at what is, both terrible and wonderful…”– NPR Books
“This is a long book but is told with such flair and linguistic dexterity that I found myself unable to put it down.”– The Irish Times
Awards & Recognition:
National Book Award Finalist
One of New York Public Library’s 10 Best Books of 2017
New York Times Best Seller
How quickly will you get into the book? The story starts straight away. With Lee, not a word is wasted. Within the first two pages she had pulled me into the lives of the first generation of the family. After that, it was very hard to put the book down.
You might not like it because: The story spans four generations of the same family, so there are many different characters that enter and then depart the book. There are characters we learn very little or not enough about. Given the time period covered, there are gaps of many years between some chapters. These things might irritate some readers.
What might you read next?
In an interview with PBS, Lee mentioned a number of authors whose style she most admired. One of these was John Updike. Why not read his book Rabbit Run?
Change continent, move to America and pick up another family saga. Try The Shell Shaker by LeAnne Howe, which spans 200 years and several generations of women in a Chocotaw family.
Or stay with a Korean theme and read The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.