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The Mermaid from Jeju: A Novel (Hardcover)

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A POPSUGAR Best Book of December 2020
An AMAZON Editors Pick December 2020
A SHE READS Best Historical Fiction Novel Winter 2021
A BUSTLE Most Anticipated Winter 2021 Read
A LIBRO.FM Influencer Pick, December 2020

Inspired by true events on Korea's Jeju Island, Sumi Hahn's "entrancing [debut] novel, brimming with lyricism and magic" (Jennifer Rosner, The Yellow Bird Sings) explores what it means to truly love in the wake of devastation.


In the aftermath of World War II, Goh Junja is a girl just coming into her own. She is the latest successful deep sea diver in a family of strong haenyeo. Confident she is a woman now, Junja urges her mother to allow her to make the Goh family's annual trip to Mt. Halla, where they trade abalone and other sea delicacies for pork. Junja, a sea village girl, has never been to the mountains, where it smells like mushrooms and earth. While there, she falls in love with a mountain boy Yang Suwol, who rescues her after a particularly harrowing journey. But when Junja returns one day later, it is just in time to see her mother take her last breath, beaten by the waves during a dive she was taking in Junja's place.

Spiraling in grief, Junja sees her younger siblings sent to live with their estranged father. Everywhere she turns, Junja is haunted by the loss of her mother, from the meticulously tended herb garden that has now begun to sprout weeds, to the field where their bed sheets are beaten. She has only her grandmother and herself. But the world moves on without Junja.

The political climate is perilous. Still reeling from Japan's forced withdrawal from the peninsula, Korea is forced to accommodate the rapid establishment of US troops. Junja's canny grandmother, who lived through the Japanese invasion that led to Korea's occupation understands the signs of danger all too well. When Suwol is arrested for working with and harboring communists, and the perils of post-WWII overtake her homelands, Junja must learn to navigate a tumultuous world unlike anything she's ever known.

About the Author


Sumi Hahn was born in Korea and immigrated to the United States when she was a year old. A former English teacher, she got her Bachelor's in English literature from Harvard University and her Master's from UC Berkeley. She was a columnist for the Times Picayune in New Orleans and has written on food and music for various publications in Seattle. Sumi and her family now live in New Zealand but divide their time between Korea and New Zealand. The Mermaid from Jeju is her first novel.

Praise For…


Praise for The Mermaid from Jeju:

A POPSUGAR Best Book of December 2020
An AMAZON Editors Pick December 2020

A SHE READS Best Historical Fiction Novel Winter 2021
A BUSTLE Most Anticipated Winter 2021 Read
A LIBRO.FM Influencer Pick, December 2020 


“A poetic rumination on grief and wartime.”
—POPSUGAR

“Through poetic prose, Junja's journey through love and loss is deftly navigated.”
E! Entertainment

“A transporting masterpiece.”
Booklist, starred review

“Hahn brilliantly carries the reader through Junja’s life...[and] masterfully captures the devastating effects of loss and grief.”
Publishers Weekly

"A poignant, original book about women’s strength, the human cost of war, and how people come to terms with painful memories . . . satisfying and meaningful."
Historical Novels Review

“A rich, complex, utterly absorbing novel, the kind of book to get lost in.”
The Times-Picayune

“Hahn creates a world alive with dreams, with gods, with tradition, and the richness of a rural Korean culture.”
New York Journal of Books

“A deftly scripted novel from beginning to end…[Hahn exhibits] a genuine flair for originality and a distinctive style of narrative storytelling.”
Midwest Book Review

"A searing story of grief, love, fate, and fascinating post-WWII Korean history, woven with poetic finesse. A soaring, inspiring debut that left me breathless." 
—Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names

“[Hahn's] poetic and powerful prose makes us believe in magic and reconfirms the transformative power of storytelling.”
—Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, bestselling author of The Mountains Sing

“Both vivid and introspective, a touching meditation on the bonds of family and the importance of place.”
—Olivia Hawker, bestselling author of The Ragged Edge of Night

“An entrancing novel, brimming with lyricism and magic.”
—Jennifer Rosner, author of The Yellow Bird Sings

“Original, luminous and lyrical…The Mermaid from Jeju is a precious pearl of a book. We need to hear more voices, like Sumi Hahn’s, that shed light on little-known pockets of history in literature.”
—Kirsty Manning, author of The Song of the Jade Lily

“A poignant portrait of love, family, and sacrifice...Haunted me long after I finished the last page.”
—Alan Hlad, international and USA Today bestselling author of The Long Flight Home

“A riveting, heartfelt tale that bears witness to the suffering of those who struggled to survive a tumultuous time in the history of South Korea.”
—Amita Trasi, international bestselling author of The Color of Our Sky

“Hahn is a masterful storyteller...The result is a book that will stay with you.”
—Karin Tanabe, author of A Hundred Suns
Product Details
ISBN: 9781643854403
ISBN-10: 1643854402
Publisher: Alcove Press
Publication Date: December 8th, 2020
Pages: 304
Language: English