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I didn’t seek this book out. I knew nothing about it, and expected nothing. Even if I had, I never could have expected the stories here. I can obviously only speak to my experience, but each of these stories articulated sensations that I’ve never paused to give name to - sensations that I’ll probably measure my life by in the end. This collection’s common thread is that line between the everyday and the dreamlike, between “here” and “there,” which proves fluttery, illusory. The line I used to walk like a tightrope, giddy and terrified, in childhood. For someone else to resurrect this strange and lost feeling somehow lessens the inevitable, impassable distance between souls, an experience I value above all else.
What a title, right? This is a rare offering, a book that lights up the space between fragmented places, reveals their closeness - the light, a treasured mushroom. Our ecological, economic, and humanitarian crises are all different faces of one multi-headed beast. This book, like all my favorites, reminds us that every event and object and being is bound to every other, that our natural worlds and constructed worlds are mirrored images. And as the matsutake mushroom thrives in devastated areas, so exists the potential for the fruiting of treasures elsewhere, here, now, and in our future, fragile as ever.
Before I ever actually picked up this book, it had been in my periphery: winking, glittering like something precious underwater, guiding me with allusion and reference not just toward its pages but toward something within myself, something dormant and forgotten. This book is an invocation to the Wild Woman. Estes’s background is in Jungian psychology and mythic storytelling — and through her stories, she leads readers to and through the dark recesses of the collective unconscious, where the Wild Woman archetype has slept for so long. Reading this book felt like the deepest sigh I’ve ever released. It answers questions that nearly burned holes through my body. It howls, it cries, it sings. It empowers and it frees. If you feel its call, heed it.
I didn't realize until it was over how desperate I was for a book like this, a book of profound and heroic kindness - and it's little wonder, isn't it, given the world as it is? I think that what Min Jin Lee has done here is extraordinary, threading in gold the multi-generational story of a family and its abundant love and loss throughout a larger tale of the forced dissolution of a country and the identity of its people. To watch people be born, grow old, and die is the gift of narrative; to know them, love them, and want to be better because of them, is the gift of narrative magic. The world's heaviness feels a bit lifted, now. Spread, shared, and dissolved. We're getting closer, and Pachinko helps move us there.
My love for this book is huge. But how to explain this love? The premise of the story is straightforward, but its appeal, perhaps, is less so: it is long, and dense, and at points, totally exasperating. What I experienced, though, was a profound and intense familiarity, a story told with so much lucidity that it made my own daily experiences - banal, routine - that much more lucid. It is the story of a girl in her freshman year at Harvard, who longs and waits for love and meaning to make themselves known to her. The narrative, full of confusion, disappointment, and unfulfilled yearning, is also incredibly intimate and hilarious. Its greatest gift, to me, was that if filled me with the desire and clarity to write. I've been writing a lot since reading this book. That is the mark of my love for it.
I read the last story from this book first, in a bookstore in Chicago a few years ago - I was living there for a summer before my senior year of college, and the person I was dating picked it off the shelf, suggested that story, and wandered away. The narrative so perfectly framed that moment in my life. I read the rest the stories that summer in what now feels like a dream state. Or rather, in that dazed state of longing when you wake up from a particularly beautiful dream.