On the Korean island of Jeju, the world is upside down. For generations, women have trained as haenyeo, female divers who do dangerous physical work while their husbands raise the children. They organize themselves into female-led diving collectives and earn their living by diving for the riches that the sea has to offer: abalone, octopus, and other seafood.
The story follows two women, Mi-Ja and Young-Sook, from the time of Japanese colonization, through World War II and the Korean War, to the present day. They go into the sea as baby-divers as soon as they are old enough. As young girls, their friendship seems unshakable, but family circumstances, marriages, and horrific historical events force their paths to diverge. Lisa See’s strength is weaving her characters’ stories with her research and historical events to make a compelling read, and this did not disappoint.