Acute food shortages and lawlessness plague communist-occupied Seoul at the start of the Korean War in 1950. Jimin, a sixteen-year-old boy, aches to return to the safety of his old home on Ockdo (Jade Island), a remote island he'd left five years earlier. But only his father, who is absent from home, knows the way.
His adversary, a man who's been plotting to wipe out Jimin's family and steal their island, brings about a tragedy and tries to eliminate him, forcing him to traverse the war-torn country on foot with his seven-year-old sister to find his father. But the war sweeps across the country multiple times and hinders them from meeting up with their father.
Back in Seoul, with Chinese troops (who invade the country to prop up the communists) bearing down on them, Jimin is forced to join the army, leaving his sister alone, hungry, and homeless in the cold, bomb-devastated city.
With action and suspense, Tendrils of Life is a rich and intriguing work of historical and literary fiction, interwoven with gripping character-oriented narratives and full of visual detail. It's a story of love and hope, greed and revenge, and the quest for survival in the turmoil of war - a depiction of resilience of the human spirit.
©2012 Owen Choi (P)2013 Owen Choi
Family trumps everything
This book is about relationships – and many of them are “potential relationships” in which the parties struggle to show their true feelings toward one another, with mixed success. When Sora finally connects with Jimin, I cheered them on with a happy heart!
I read the book first, then listened to it. Tim Campbell’s character voicings actually helped me understand the characters much better!
During the war, many people lost track of one another, and that is the subject of much of this book. As this is reviewed at the very end, it was so touching to me!
I couldn't put this book down! It is a gripping tale of two feuding families in wartime Korea, and the action and plot twists just keep coming, page after page. You get to see Asian culture by participating in it, and you get to experience the many ups and downs of life in a family by living it. "Tendrils of Life" makes you appreciate the strong loyalty that comes through being part of a family.
But most of all, this novel helps us see the day to day tragedy it is to live in a war-torn land. So many people have experienced this around the world, yet so many have never thought about how hard it really is. After reading this book, I so appreciate the relatively peaceful lives we are privileged to live!
This was an epic story. I never have known a lot about the history of Korea and the Korean War. This brought the conflict to light and I was stunned by the events millions endured. Tragic and yet a story of how a young man can endure loss I cannot imagine, and be true to the goodness in the person he is through it all. This was an amazing story, and it was well told by the narrator. Across the board 5 stars for this audio book.
Tendrils of Life is a page-turning literary epic in the style of Steinbeck's East of Eden or Buck's The Good Earth. Choi's characters bring alive the real experience of war -- not a date and fact overview from the history books, or a casualty count from the headlines, but the daily lives of realistic characters as they navigate the horrors and chaos of war.
Choi makes the reader care for Jimin and his family, but also understand the actions and motivations of his adversaries. What appears to be a classic family feud between the Barks and the Barns unravels to be a far more complex tale of human fallibility. There are no fairytale endings here, but Choi leads the reader through the sorrow to a place of hope.
Campbell's performance was masterful. He easily navigated any pronunciation difficulties with Korean names and language. His characterization was very natural and engaging -- making me forget that this was just one person dramatizing the story and numerous voices.
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