Island of Sea Women is the story of Young-Sook and Mi-ja, set in a Japanese Occupied Jeju Island of Korea.
Young-Sook and Mi-ja came from different backgrounds but they became inseparable until certain circumstances broke them apart.
The two grew up in the sea and were ‘expert’ free divers. I am very surprised that in Jeju Island back in the days, women were the bread winners and provider of the family. They go out to the sea to hunt for octopus, abalone, etc., while men take care of the children.
One of the reasons I bought this book is about the free diving part. I was so interested to know how the story will go as I have heard of the granny free divers in South Korea. Although a big part of the story was about the women and their free diving, I was expecting more. But this is a historical fiction and not a book solely for free diving so fair enough.
Lisa See’s Snowflower and the Secret Fan had me crying while reading but this book did not. Either the story didn’t really get to me or I just grew up and became less emotional.
But still Island of Sea Women is a good read and here are my takeaways:
- There are always 2 sides to a coin.
Young-Sook and Mi-ja were the best of friends until the day Young-Sook’s son, husband and sister in law died infront of them. Young-Sook asked Mi-ja if she could take her son with her but Mi-ja left without a word. She blamed Mija for everything not even knowing the latter’s side of the story. She had reasons for doing that, she also had her own circumstances and she also faced the consequences of her action. All of these, were unknown to Young-Sook.
Young-Sook never gave Mi-ja a chance to explain so she lived all her life believing only her side of the story.
- Life is too short to hold grudges.
Young-Sook never forgave Mi-ja even after she left South Korea for the United States. She never read any of the letters sent to her. She never gave herself and Mi-ja a chance to start over again until Mi-ja died and Young-Sook met her grand child who explained everything.
Although, it is never easy to forgive and forget, we have to try. I also find it difficult not to hold grudges. I usually forgive, but I cannot forget.