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  • Shanley McConnell

Week Twenty: The Monday Review

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1. The Island of Sea Women, Lisa See


Haenyeo / Haenyo (해녀, literal translation: sea women)


def. female divers in the Korean province of Jeju who harvest a variety of mollusks,

seaweed and other sea life from the ocean. Known for their independent spirit,

iron will and determination, the haenyeo represent the semi-matriarchal society

on the strait.


I was gifted The Island of Sea Women by my grandmother, who read the book after its publication in 2019. The novel centres around Jeju island, and washes over many decades of shore. The Island of Sea Women details the working lives of the haenyeo during the 1930s Japanese colonialism, World War II, the Korean War and moves into our era of cell-phones, wet-suits and great, great grandchildren. Mi-ja and Young-sook are two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village's collective----swimming,

breathing, releasing their sumbisori into the sharp, clear air as baby divers, and later, as respected haeyneo. Surviving hundreds of dives, closest of friends Mi-ja and Young-sook find themselves facing forces that threaten to collapse their friendship and trust.


The Island of Sea Women is deep and poignant. It explores a world turned upside down, where the landshore that is the sea's floor and women are in charge of engaging in dangerous, physical labour to provide for their husbands and children. The language in the novel is beautiful, always intentional and poetic. For hundreds of pages, See writes about poverty, societal pressure and war with a keen eye on secrets, forgiveness and unsurfaced, surfacing hope.


Highly recommend!


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2. Dream Big, Bob Goff


Bob Goff is the brilliant author of Love Does and Everybody, Always; both of which I read over the years. As a young girl, the littlest eleven-year-old on a team of college students who were traveling to Universal Studios for a Christian conference under the mentorship of my father, I had the great privilege of hearing Bob Goff speak.


I remember his enthusiasm, his humour and his sincerity. How he visioned a mission for people to move forward into the dreams that God has gifted them. This ia a practical book, with anecdotes and methods for learning how to define dreams, identify obstacles, plan strategically and develop praxis for moving forward with this plans. Highly recommend!


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3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King


Memoir meets master-class in this acclaimed volume, revealing both the methodology and mind behind some of King's bestselling works. It compromises the basic tools that every write must own, and moves deftly from opinion to the structural integrity of the writer's craft with a considered pace. This book almost feels as though it is listening, a conversation that begins with question, then answer.


King's advice is grounded in his own memories from childhood, continues through the emergence of himself as a writer, to his early and later career. On Writing is as entertaining as it is encouraging, and I highly recommend this memoir.


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4. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a wonderful, 13th published novel by Haruki Murakami, with the English-language edition, translated by Philip Gabriel, released worldwide on the 12th of August 2014. This bildungsroman follows the past and present of Tsukuru Tazaki, a man who wants to understand why his four closest childhood friends rejected him sixteen years earlier - a weight that clings to his relationships.


The narrative begins in 1990s, Nagoya, with young Tsukuru and his highschool friends - two boys and two girls: Kuro (Black Meadow), Shiro (White Root), Aka (Red Pine), Ao (Blue Sea). One day in 1995 Tsukuru's four friends refused to see or speak with him. He had been the only one in their 'orderly, harmonious community' whose name bore no relation to colour, and he had accepted it quietly, resigned to his colourless, mediative role. Now in 2011's Tokyo, 36-year old engineer Tsukuru Tazaki revisits his old friends to uncover the reason for the unexplained dismissal. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a well-written novel about forgiveness, rejection, healing and loss.


Many of you know I adore Haruki Murakami's work. His characterisation and setting is absolutely natural. Philip Gabriel is a wonderful translator of his novels. I would highly recommend this work.

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