Haenyeo is the name of female only sea divers on the Korean island Jeju. The haenyeo tradition and the matrifocal society is the backdrop to the story of two friends Mi-ja and Young-sook. It follows their friendship and diving careers from childhood through the Japanese occupation and the Korean War. A tragedy of neither of their doing changes their relationship.
'Jumping between the WWII era and 2008, See perceptively depicts challenges faced by Koreans over the course of the 20th century, particularly homing in on the ways the haenyeo have struggled to maintain their way of life. Exposing the depths of human cruelty and resilience, See's lush tale is a wonderful ode to a truly singular group of women' * Publishers Weekly *
'For centuries, women on Korea's Jeju island have been free-diving into the sea, a practice explored through this fictionalized story of two friends who struggle to stay close amid war, family rivalries, and a shifting cultural landscape. It's riveting, historical, and heartbreaking all at once' * Marie Claire *
'See's vivid prose and thorough research together bring to life the seafaring existence of these women . . . See's thoughtful and empathetic book sheds necessary attention on this largely ignored event' * New York Times *
'See is most deft when she plays with this line - of betrayal and the impossibility of forgiveness - which she does on a national level as well as a deeply personal one . . . a powerful and essential story of humanity' * Los Angeles Review of Books *
'I was spellbound the moment I entered the vivid and little-known world of the diving women of Jeju . . . No one writes about female friendship, the dark and the light of it, with more insight and depth than Lisa See' -- Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees '
Lisa See excels at mining the intersection of family, friendship and history . . . This novel spans wars and generations, but at its heart is a beautifully rendered story of two women whose individual choices become inextricably tangled' -- Jodi Picoult, author of A Spark of Light