Vast in scope, the book is a saga about four generations of a poverty-stricken Korean family that are essentially forced to live in Japan in exile. Ethnic tensions exist between the Japanese and Koreans due to Japan's colonial rule over Korea and this tension of prejudice and racisim pervades the entire story.
This is a character-driven novel so well-drawn that it makes you actually care about what happens to them. The courage of the family members against so many hardships was extraordinary. But while it is a tale of family relationships, it is also about a fascinating culture including the Japanese occupation of Korea, the existence of pachinko parlors, the underworld in Japan, the racism in Japan of Koreans and more.