There is an island, Jeju, south of Korea’s mainland where women have been free divers for generations, harvesting seafood to sell, diving without air tanks or wet suits. They are the heads of households, bringing in the income, while the husbands care for the children, cook the meals. Mi-ja and Young-sook , best friends, are two young girls who live on this island. For several years they have worked hard as apprentices. Now the day has finally come when they will truly dive, the day that fills them with joy and with fear. They are only fifteen and will be called baby divers. Their lives will revolve around the sea. It will be a dangerous life, but they love the sea, and they know they will be best friends forever. The story of the women divers is fascinating, and would be a fine book on its own, but this is really a story of friendships, of misunderstandings, of forgiveness. It spans a huge time line, from the 1930s to 2008, and much of that time the Koreans are repressed, first by the Japanese, then by the occupying Americans, suffering unbelievable hardships. While much of the book is hard to read, dark, depressing, it is beautifully written, and it is a story that needs to be told. This is a wonderful book that I will remember for a long, long time.
eGalley review Publication date 3.5.19