BOOK REVIEW – Pachinko

PACHINKOMIN JIN LEE

Pachinko is the second novel by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee. Published in 2017, Pachinko is an epic historical fiction novel following a Korean family that immigrates to Japan.

In 1883, in the little island fishing village of Yeongdo, which is a ferry ride from Busan, an aging fisherman and his wife take in lodgers to make a little more money. They have three sons, but only one, Hoonie, who has a cleft lip and twisted foot, survives to adulthood. Because of his deformities, Hoonie is considered ineligible for marriage. When he is 27, Japan annexes Korea, and many families are left destitute and without food. Due to their prudent habits, Hoonie’s family’s situation is comparatively more stable, and a matchmaker arranges a marriage between Hoonie and Yangjin, the daughter of a poor farmer who had lost everything in the colonial conquest. Hoonie and Yangjin take over the lodging house upon the passing of Hoonie’s parents.

In the mid 1910s, Yangjin and Hoonie have a daughter named Sunja. After her thirteenth birthday, she is raised by her mother Yangjin, her father Hoonie having died from tuberculosis.

The novel jumps in time, and in Book II, Sunja raises her two children, Noa (Hansu’s son), and Mozasu (Isak’s son). While Noa resembles Hansu in appearance, he is similar in personality to Isak, and he seeks a quiet life of learning, reading, and academia. Shortly after Mozasu is born, a member of Isak’s church is caught reciting the Lord’s Prayer when they were supposed to be worshiping the emperor, and Isak is sent to prison. Despite Yoseb’s resistance, Sunja begins to work in the market, selling kimchi that she and Kyunghee make at home. Their small business is profitable, but as Japan enters the Second World War and ingredients grow scarce, they struggle to make money. Sunja is eventually approached by the owner of a restaurant, Kim Changho, who pays her and Kyunghee to make kimchi in his restaurant daily, providing them with financial security. A dying Isak is eventually released from prison, and he is able to briefly reunite with his family before dying.

A few years later, on the eve of the restaurant’s closure, Sunja is approached by Hansu, who reveals that he is the actual owner of the restaurant and has been manipulating her family for years, having tracked Sunja down after she sold her watch. He arranges for her to spend the rest of the war in the countryside with Kyunghee and her children and for Yoseb to wait the rest of the war out working at a factory in Nagasaki. During her time at the farm, Hansu also reunites Sunja with her mother, Yangjin, and eventually returns a permanently crippled Yoseb to the family after he is horrifically burned during the bombings. The Baek family eventually return to Osaka where Noa and Mozasu resume their studies.

Feast Day – NOV 01, 2021

Feast Day – All Saints – November 01

The Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated on the first of November. It was instituted to honour all of the saints, both known and unknown, and, according to Pope Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year.

In the early days of the Church, the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of Saint Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration.

In the persecution of Diocletian, the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each, but the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find is in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of Saint John Chrysostom (407).

At first only martyrs and Saint John the Baptist were honoured by a special day in the Liturgical Calendar. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established.

Still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter. In the west, Pope Boniface IV on May 13, 609 or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of Saint Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for November 1.

A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on May 1. Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on November 1 to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84).

Reflection

This feast first honoured martyrs. Later, when Christians were free to worship according to their consciences, the Church acknowledged other paths to sanctity. In the early centuries the only criterion was popular acclaim, even when the bishop’s approval became the final step in placing a commemoration on the calendar. The first papal canonization occurred in 993; the lengthy process now required to prove extraordinary sanctity took form in the last 500 years. Today’s feast honours the obscure as well as the famous—the saints each of us have known.