The Island of Sea Women

This book is amazing… a masterpiece. When we were in Belize my sister said it’s the best book she’d ever read and my mom agreed. Naturally, I ordered it and started reading as soon as I got home. They were right. Set on the Korean island of Jeju, it follows the main character (Young-Sook) from the thirties (pre-WWII) all the way through modern day. It begins as Young-Sook and her best friend Mi-ja are learning to work in the sea with the village’s all-female diving team. Jeju is a matrifocal society: the women work in the sea (diving for abalone, sea urchin, other treasures) while the men stay home and care for the kids. It’s kind of amazing how these women dived into the cold water, holding their breath for three minutes, without a wet suit or any sort of modern equipment. The waters are dangerous and there is tragedy. The girls have each other but as their lives take different turns and the world around them changes, they both make difficult decisions and in the process, lose each other (I am keeping things vague so not to spoil anything). Spanning generations of women (Young-Sook all the way down to her great grandchildren), this is a book I think I’ll remember for years to come. I absolutely loved it.

Author: Lisa See