Min Jin Lee ( was born in Seoul, South Korea. Her family came to the United States in 1976, when she was seven years old, and she grew up in New York. In 2017 Lee released this novel , which is an epic historical tale following characters from Korea who eventually migrate to Japan. It is the first novel written for an adult English speaking audience about Japanese Korean culture.

Running from before World War I to 1989, we’re offered an inter-generational narrative. In it, a young girl becomes the lover of an older man — she’s 16, he’s 35 — falls pregnant to him, certain that he will marry her only to discover he has a wife in Japan and she can only be his Korean substitute. Instead she marries a Christian pastor, also Korean-born, and they travel together to Japan. He’s happy to be father to her child and his own but falls foul of Japanese fascism and Shinto repression. They work at subsistence level for the Japanese. At the same time various family members get involved in the pachinko business, pinball parlours, and the shady side of gambling, which leads back to the sinister father figure, the spiv in Osaka who is a ‘yakuza’.

There is a huge range of experience crowded into this family chronicle, and it’s fair to say that full immersion in the tale will absorb a lot of time. Be prepared for the big themes of faith, family, identity, exile and struggle. At the end, compare it all to life in Lanark.


Check if this whopper of Asian social realism is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at



480 pages in Apollo

First published 2017

ISBN  978-1786691354


Min Jin Lee



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