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Book Review: Tendrils of Life by Owen Choi

Title: Tendrils of Life
Author: Owen Choi
Paperback: 426 pages
Publisher: Princeton Falcon Press (July 26, 2012)
Genre: Historic Novel
Read: eBook
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Amazon)
Acute food shortages and lawlessness plague communist occupied Seoul at the start of the Korean War in 1950, and Jimin, a 16-year-old boy, seeks a way to return to a remote island in the South Sea of Korea which he had left five years earlier. But only his father, who is absent from home, knows the way.
Meanwhile, tragedy strikes, brought on by his adversary Sinman, who belongs to a powerful clan hostile toward Jimin’s family. On his way south with his little sister to find his father, Jimin meets Sora and their relationship blooms. But Jimin is compelled to continue his journey, and the two separate.
The war sweeps across the country many times, first with a North Korean invasion, then with a counterattack by UN forces, then with Chinese interference. Through the turmoil, Jimin and Sora venture into war-ravaged and guerrilla-infested areas.
It is a story of love and hope, greed and revenge, strife between families, and the quest for survival in the turmoil of war. A depiction of resilience of the human spirit.
Tendrils of Life is a rich and intriguing novel, interwoven with personal narratives that are real and alive against the backdrop of the Korean War.

My Review:

Note: Thanks to Owen Choi for offering me his book to review :)

This is the story Jimin, a boy who is trying to survive the war in Korea. Jimin’s family used to live on a little island where they were content but his father brings them back to the mainland before going away to join the war. After he leaves, Jimin and his sister Misern lose their mother. As she is dying she tells them she will meet them again on the island and there starts their search for their father who is the only one who knows the way back to the island.

Tendrils of Life is about all those lives that touch ours and change it. Every person whether just passing or staying for a while in our lives makes an impact and it’s repercussions are felt forever.

The book has a lot of characters, each adding to the Jimin’s journey. His sister Misern who Jimin loves but sometimes finds a burden. Sora the girl he has loved for a long time from a distance. Sinman his half-brother and rival. His father with whom he has a love-hate relationship. And many others who become a part of his life as he travels across Korea growing up from a boy to a man. Their lives intertwine with his as he tries to make his way to Iodo, the utopian island.

I have always liked history after all I love stories and history is just that. But textbooks and the news are not great sources of stories so I don’t know much of recent history. I knew there was a war in Korea but nothing beyond that. This was was an insight into the war and what common people went though during it.

I enjoyed the book but considering the pain and trauma the war brings to Jimin and Misern I not sure if ‘enjoyed’ is the right word. I cheered the siblings along their journey, felt anxiety in their separation, pain when they got hurt, anger at those who brought so much trauma to a country of peaceful people. I felt for Korea, I felt for all those people who get stuck in wars they didn’t start or ever wanted.

This book is a must read if you want to experience the war in Korea and understand it’s people – how they think and feel, what they have experienced and been through. Choi explores ideas, questions beliefs, and brings out the strength of the human spirit in Tendrils of Life.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

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