Jim Gallen's Reviews > Tendrils of Life: A story of love, loss, and survival in the turmoil of the Korean War

Tendrils of Life by Owen Choi
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really liked it

I rarely read novels but the setting of this one caught my attention. A journey of a family through war torn Korea was too close to the historical genre to pass up. I am glad that I did not.

I do not want to give away much about the plot but you are entitled to a general outline. A brother and sister, Jimin and Misern Bark, spend most of the book trying to return to their native island of Ockdo from which they had been driven by a feud with the Barn family. If the origin of the feud sounds familiar, check out Chapter 21 of Genesis. They seek to reunite their family to return home amidst the shifting tides of war sweeping across the peninsula. Along the way they find love and hatred, hope and disappointment.

As an historical novel, “Tendrils of Life” put a human face to the Korean War. So often, the literature of war focuses on the soldiers and the battles. In this book we follow the lives of the people caught in the maelstrom. Did you ever think of the Koreans who were forced into the service of one side or the other? Did it ever occur to you that the allegiance that brought privilege today brought persecution next week? And back again, if you survived that long? Did you ever ponder how you would cope with the lawlessness that flowed in the wake of battle? Readers tag along as the characters sift their way through these challenges and more.

The most impressive aspect of this book is the writing itself. Author Owen Choi has succeeded in weaving the characters into and out of the action without disrupting continuity. He has inserted factual backgrounds that place the action in context. His descriptive narrative and picture words paint scenes in the mind’s eye. Choi accomplishes all of this without descending into the muck that some authors think they need to carry their story. I debated between 4 stars and five. I finally asked myself, “If I give this 5 stars, what do I give Huckleberry Finn?” So it is 4 stars. Not a classic for the ages yet, although time could prove me wrong, but a good, enjoyable read.

I did receive a free copy of this book for review.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 25, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 26, 2013 – Shelved

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