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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 (118 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $11.87
Kindle Price: $3.87
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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. A historical thriller and historical romance fiction in 150,000 words.

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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

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Product Details

  • File Size: 2520 KB
  • Print Length: 412 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0985728604
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Princeton Falcon Press (January 7, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008PWSG2O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,806 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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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
To many the Korean War remains a distant memory, except for those American soldiers who fought in the war and passed on their knowledge to their children and grandchildren. Now we have a potent novel that explores what happened to the Korean people before and during this war, how the Japanese, Chinese and North Koreans forced Koreans to turn against Koreans. We read a story of the depths of despair from starvation, filth, disease, rape, murder, but we also have here a story replete with the deepest love, cooperation, compassion, and most of all hope that drives men and women forward to obtain dreams of a better life.

Jimin and Sinman are the protagonist and antagonist respectively who are deadly enemies not realizing how deeply they are truly connected. The novel opens with Jimin, his sister Misern, their mother and father leaving the island of Ockdo, a remote island in southern Korea. The father comes briefly and infrequently and leaves for long periods of time. They arrive in a communist-occupied Seoul in 1950 before the war begins and they live with starvation, fear of the communists who randomly arrest, torture and kill anyone and everyone for the flimsiest reason. On and on this horror continues, with Jimin and Misern's mother eventually attacked and dying from her wounds. Sinman hates Jimin, a family clan warfare whose origin is gradually revealed throughout the entire novel. Sinman has money and bribes whoever he needs; his goal is to kill Jimin, but after much suffering Jimin and Misern decide to return to Ockdo.

Little do they know that they are about to begin a horrendous, long journey which will be full of hate and love, starvation and food provided by kind-hearted Koreans, and so so much more than this review can adequately convey.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Sibling love
I never knew too much about the Korean War so this book gave me a lot of history on it. It's main character is a hero not only in my eyes but those of his family and others. Read more
Published 5 days ago by readimg fool
4.0 out of 5 stars book review.
I enjoyed this book because it is about a family during a time in history that really occurred. Even though the book is fictional it does have factual information about... Read more
Published 10 days ago by windy
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting history of the Korean war
This was one of the best books I've ever read. I felt that I was a charter at times as as I became involved the book. Its quiet long so I may read a second time. Read more
Published 20 days ago by janieg
4.0 out of 5 stars Fictional history
I liked the story okay, not a real cliff hanger, but interesting enough. I did enjoy reading through the perspective of the Korean writer since I did not know a lot about the... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Michelle Lamm
5.0 out of 5 stars heart wrenching book
this is one of the saddest books I have ever read. I now have a much better understanding of the Korean war.
I am grateful to be born in the here and now.
Published 22 days ago by florence h
4.0 out of 5 stars A different perspective of the Korean War.
This story line is easy to follow and well written. The characters have so much depth and are easy to get involved with. Read more
Published 29 days ago by anchoredlady
5.0 out of 5 stars Tendrils
Not an easy read, but tells the power of hope even in the horrors of war. I never had any insight into the Korean War before.
Published 1 month ago by edgewood granny
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Emotional
Tendrils of Life by Owen Choi is a well written literary fiction and historical story which touched my heart. The author utilized some facts from history, documentaries, etc. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Josephine Calabrese
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
A moving depiction of the impact and meaningless nature of war and the motivational force of love. Regardless of the politics, the human cost is immeasurable. Read more
Published 1 month ago by pianomama
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I found that this story did not hang together on several levels. I wasn't in Korea during the war, but I have traveled there since and it simply seems far fetched to me that the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by MVG
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More About the Author

Born in South Korea, Owen Choi came to the United States in 1972. He worked in the fields of computer software, most notably in computer networking, and took an early retirement from a technical leadership position at IBM. He now devotes his time to writing.

Though he studied and worked in engineering, writing fiction was always his passion from his childhood days, inspired by the works of Hemingway, Steinbeck, and others.

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