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Tendrils of Life: A story of love, loss, and survival in the turmoil of the Korean War [Kindle Edition]

Owen Choi
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $11.87
Kindle Price: $3.95
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Book Description

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 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 historical and literary novel, 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.

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Editorial Reviews


"To many the Korean War remains a distant memory... Now we have a potent novel that explores what happened to the Korean people before and during this war... So much more could be said about this surprising, fascinating novel ... Highly recommended historical fiction!" -Crystal Book Reviews
"An emotional roller-coaster, Tendrils of Life not only tugged at my heartstrings as a reader, it strummed and plucked them through a whole range of emotions like a well-played harp. I could not put it down - I worried for them as if the characters were neighbors and friends of mine ..." -BookIdeas
"It was enlightening to read this story, which sets forth the suffering of this people, who to this day still suffer... I could not put this book down as it filled in many of the empty spaces for me during those times when our veterans did not come home jubilant, but rather bitter and damaged." -Joan Adamak, Amazon Vine Voice Reviewer.
"The overall journey through the war-torn country of the main characters is depicted with so much visual detail that I felt hunger, pain, sorrow, loneliness and despair as I read each chapter. It's a literary gem." -Digital Journal
"It reads like a Korean 'Lonesome Dove'... A roller coaster, I had to stay with it because I was so invested in the characters that I finished it very quickly." -Barbara Jackson, Amazon Vine Voice Reviewer

From the Author

To print the List of Characters or Map, please visit and go to the Printing Instructions tab.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2249 KB
  • Print Length: 412 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Princeton Falcon Press (July 31, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008PWSG2O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,940 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a literary gem September 29, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tendrils of Life takes you through the turmoil of war in Korea at the end of World War II and the Pacific War with the surrender of the Empire of Japan. Choi writes a detailed narrative of the plight of the Korean people during the time-frame when their beloved country is torn in two by outside forces. He weaves the historical events through the eyes of his main characters as they struggle to survive the injustices and strife that war brings. Readers need not be familiar with the Korean War to appreciate the story. Choi's writing is non-linear, using flashbacks at strategic points in the novel to give us the back-story of the characters while driving the action forward in the present. The novel could easily be transcribed into a screenplay, as the historical framework, visual detail and pace of the story are not unlike a cinematic movie -- similar to other novels which have successfully been made into films such as Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor or Heinrich Harrer's Seven Years in Tibet.

The overall journey through the war-torn country of the main characters -- Jimin, his little sister Misern, his soul mate Sora, his arch-nemesis Sinman and others -- is depicted with so much visual detail that I felt hunger, pain, sorrow, loneliness and despair as I read each chapter. What is unique in this story is that the main character Jimin is not portrayed as a typical hero -- he is not particularly strong nor is he brave. However, every time he looks death in the eye, his faith, love and determination to survive overcome the impossible.

I was so moved by the story and enjoyed every word. I felt as though I was right there beside Jimin, Sora, Teacher Yang, Jimin's father and even Sinman. I loved how the story was brought together at the end.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Korean Epoch April 8, 2013
This reviewer was a young married woman to a WWII veteran when the U.S. went to war against Korea, and since all WWII veterans were in the reserves for ten years following WWII, we all held our breath as to whether our men would go into battle again. At least in our part of the country, no veterans were recalled and since having read and heard the news from the U.S. point of view and how American soldiers suffered from the cold, and the cruelty if captured by North Koreans, it was enlightening to read this story, which sets forth the suffering of this people, who to this day still suffer.

Chapter 9 of this historical novel sets forth the history of Korea up to the time this novel takes place. "...the Koreans, steeped in relatively disaster-free surroundings and centuries-old state imposed Confucianism (whose aim was to keep peace under the country's ruler by making the people docile and obedient) became languid and submissive...In the 7th century, Korea, through its three consecutive dynasties paid tribute to China until 1895 when Japan divested China's dignity...Weak with various factions fighting to influence inept and often spoiled kings, Korea had become a hermit kingdom to protect itself from Western powers and fell behind other countries in technology and industry...After Japan was forced to open its ports by American warships, within two decades Japan transformed from a primitive agricultural country to a modern industrial nation...In 1895 the Japanese won the war over control of Korea from China...In 1904 Japan won its war against Russia and made Korea its protectorate and assumed all diplomatic rights for Korea. In 1905 with President Roosevelt's approval, an agreement was formalized to give Japan de facto control of Korea.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written From the Heart September 26, 2012
Owen Choi's 'Tendrils of Life' not only tugged at my heartstrings as a reader, it strummed and plucked them through a whole range of emotions like a well-played harp. Moving themes of love, filial loyalty, and the kindness of strangers play counterpoint against the horrors of the Korean War and the rapacious greed of men ready to take advantage of a country in turmoil. I could not put it down - I worried for them as if the characters were neighbors and friends of mine who were going through so much personal upheaval, and I could not stop till I knew all that befell them.

Bark Jimin and his sister Misern had an idyllic childhood in the remote island of Ockdo in the South Seas of Korea. Likewise, somewhere near Pyongyang a young girl named Sora was enjoying life at her grandfather's home before her family left to visit the United States. Both Jimin and Sora held memories of their childhood dear to their heart by the time their two families end up as neighbors in Seoul. They had no idea how precious those memories would become - Korea was in the middle of social, economic and political upheavals that would give rise to the Korean War, and soon Jimin and Sora would lose their homes, their families, even each other. Despite heart-wrenching tragedies and ordeals that pushed the limits of their bodies and sanity, a love blossomed between them. But how can tenuous tendrils of a possible life together survive the ravages of war?

'Tendrils of Life' hooked me immediately as a reader because of the emotional rollercoaster the characters went through - Jimin, Sora, and Misern endured so many tragedies I found it easy to commit to them and fret for their welfare.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative and heartbreaking
This was an unusual but informative read for me. Reading of specific individuals as a part of the Korean war opened my eyes and made it very real in past and now. Read more
Published 1 day ago by B. Boudreau
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
A good read.. I felt the historical background was key to the story as some of the situations the characters experienced were hard to believe.. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Joyce DeBlieck
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumph and tragedy
This story about triumph and tragedy in Korea is one of the most heartwarming and at times heartrending I have read if not the most. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Catherine Akers
4.0 out of 5 stars I think Owen Choi's story would have benefited from a good editor. It...
I am torn between 3 and 4 stars as this is a very interesting story filled with heartache, cruelty, and the devastation of war. Read more
Published 2 months ago by IdaB
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
I didnt finish it
Published 3 months ago by MsGina4u
5.0 out of 5 stars You Won't Be Sorry You Read This....
I enjoy stories with an Asian backdrop so I liked this quite a bit, a very good read...
Published 4 months ago by Eric Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars Mans inhumanity to man.
I have never been to Korea, but reading this book inspired me. It touched me very deeply. It speaks truly to mans inhumanity, to man. Read more
Published 4 months ago by John Joyner
5.0 out of 5 stars By telling the story of the people who were victims ...
By telling the story of the people who were victims, the author showed how the quest for power can destroy a country, but through compassion the people can still survive. Mr. Read more
Published 5 months ago by GARY POWELL
5.0 out of 5 stars Children at war
Tendrils of Life, by Owen Choi, is a very engrossing Korean War story, aka, The Korean Conflict (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953). Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jim Oneal
4.0 out of 5 stars compelling but difficult
This story of struggle is composed of two narratives. The first is of a boy and his sister facing hardship and separation, and the people who assisted them in spite of their own... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Rachelle
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More About the Author

Owen Choi worked in various fields of computer science, most notably in networking software, and took an early retirement from a technical leadership position at IBM. He now devotes his time to writing.

Tendrils of Life is his first novel.

He is currently working on his second novel, staged in North Korea. Through much research and the testimonies of countless people who have escaped the secretive country, he is aiming to bring what it feels like to live in that totalitarian state to his readers with suspenseful, fast-paced, and emotion-filled scenes.

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