When I first began this book, I expected it to be like White chrysanthemum because both books focus on Haenyeo women of Jeju Island, South Korea, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. White Chrysanthemum lent towards comfort women while The island of sea women was about friendship among Haenyeo groups during the country’s turbulent times and the need to forgive.
Not only was the story a page turner, but the lives of these unique groups of women along Jeju’s coastline who support their families while the husbands stay home to care for their children was a fascinating background setting.
When Joy’s father commits suicide and she learns a secret Aunt May and her mother, Pearl have hidden from her all her life, she leaves Los Angeles and enters China. She hopes to forget her life back in America and find her birth father. Joy is elated by her father’s status and by village life under Mao. After Pearl reaches China in search of her daughter, she finds Joy dazzled by a poor country peasant and nothing she says can convince Joy of her ill fated match.
May and Pearl are characters from Shanghai Girls. Now the tale continues a generation later and is just as riveting.
With a through line about pu’er, a tea plucked from ancient tea trees, Li-yan is the first Akha girl from her Chinese hill tribe to be educated. Instead of furthering her studies, she drops everything for her childhood sweetheart whom her parents disapprove of. Together they seek the child Li-yan was forced to leave in an orphanage before they leave for Thialand. During her absence, her poor village prospers from the sudden popularity of pu’er while Li-yan becomes destitute from her opium addicted husband. She hasn’t forgotten the daughter she was forced to give up, but her life begins to change.
This is the second Lisa See book I’ve reviewed, but I’ve read all her books and there isn’t one I wouldn’t give a five out of five.
Two sisters, Pearl and May, lead exciting lives in Shanghai until their father’s once rich lifestyle is gambled away. Their father is forced to sell his daughters to men in California seeking wives. Escaping from invading soldiers, they journey across to U.S.A. to begin new lives with the strangers they’ve married.