The Island of Sea Women

THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN offers up an evocative tale of two best friends whose bonds are both strengthened and tested over decades by forces beyond their control. Set largely on the remote Korean island of Jeju, THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN follows Young-sook and Mi-ja, girls from strikingly different backgrounds who bond over their shared love of the sea. Working in their village’s all-female diving collective, the two friends come of age in a community where gender roles are anything but typical. Here, women are the primary breadwinners, the heads of household in all but name, and yet, as Mi-ja and Young-sook come to realize, there are limits to their control that can prove devastating.

Over the years, Young-sook and Mi-ja endure together the loss of parents, the dramas of marriage and childbirth, cruel family members, disruptive technological advances, and the ever-present dangers that accompany their livelihood. They also face growing unrest from the political turmoil that surrounds their homeland: Japanese occupation gives way to World War II, the Korean War, and its aftermath, leaving the residents of Jeju caught between warring empires. The daughter of a Japanese collaborator, Mi-ja will forever bear the mark of her father’s activities, while Young-sook looks poised to inherit her mother’s role as the leader of her village diving collective. As their husbands’ political ties and tumultuous world events threaten their friendship, Young-sook and Mi-ja see their remote island and everything they have known upended.

THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN deftly explores the complexities of female friendship and introduces readers to the remarkably strong and spirited female divers of Jeju Island. It’s also an eye-opening portrait of a country ravaged by decades of conflict and unrest, and a searing examination of the effects that foreign intervention can have on the evolution of a nation and of course individual lives.  It asks the eternal questions:  How do we find forgiveness? Can we find forgiveness? Booklist has called the novel, “A stupendous multigenerational family saga, See’s latest also provides an enthralling cultural anthropologyhighlighting the soon-to-be-lost, matriarchal haenyeo phenomenon and an engrossing history of violently tumultuous twentieth-century Korea… Stupendous…Mesmerizing.”

Advance Praise for the Island of Sea Women

“The fierce free-diving women on the Korean island of Jeju are the subject of Lisa See’s mesmerizing new historical novel that celebrates women’s strengths—and the strength of their friendships.”—Oprahmag.com

“Lisa See excels at mining the intersection of family, friendship and history, and in her newest novel, she reaches new depths exploring the matrifocal haenyeo society in Korea, caught between tradition and modernization.  This novel spans wars and generations, but at its heart is a beautifully rendered storyof two women whose individual choices become inextricably tangled.”—Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of A SPARK OF LIGHT and SMALL GREAT THINGS

“A stupendous multigenerational family saga, See’s latest also provides an enthralling cultural anthropologyhighlighting the soon-to-be-lost, matriarchal haenyeo phenomenon and an engrossing history of violently tumultuous twentieth-century Korea. A mesmerizing achievement. See’s accomplishment, acclaim, and readership continue to rise with each book, and interest in this stellar novel will be well stoked.”

— Terry Hong, Booklist, STARRED review

“I was spellbound the moment I entered the vivid and little-known world of the diving women of Jeju. Set amid sweeping historical events,The Island of Sea Womenis the extraordinary story of Young-sook and Mi-ja, of women’s daring, heartbreak, strength, and forgiveness. No one writes about female friendship, the dark and the light of it, with more insight and depth than Lisa See.”—Sue Monk Kidd, NYT bestselling author of THE INVENTION OF WINGS and THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES.

“I loved The Island of Sea Womenfrom the very first page.  Lisa See has created an enthralling, compelling portrait of a unique culture and a turbulent time in history, but what’s really remarkable about this novel is the characters—two women whose lifelong friendship is tested during impossibly difficult times.  Compelling, heart-wrenching, and beautifully written, The Island of Sea Womenwill plunge you into a world and a story you’ve never read before and remind you how powerful women can and must be to survive.”—Kristin Hannah, NYT bestselling author of THE NIGHTENGALE and THE GREAT ALONE.

 

Enhance Your Reading Experience

Learn more about the research for The Island of Sea Women here.

To learn how to have your own Korean Tea & Tasting Package for Book Clubs, click here.

To learn more about the island, the divers, and look at Lisa’s photos from her trip to Jeju Island, click here.