I learned so much.

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From the moment I picked this book up, I did not want to put it down. It did not take long for me to realize that I knew very little about Korea in 1918. Korea was occupied by the Japanese. What really surprised me is that this book has been translated from Korean into English, and yet the translator is able to bring multiple themes to life. Matchmakers would seek out young ladies in their teens from very poor families. The matchmaker in this story told the families that life as a picture bride in Hawaii would be a chance for the girls to have a better life, including a chance to go to school. The brides soon realize they have been terribly deceived by the matchmaker. Willow, the main character, learns that her husband did not want to marry her.

This is a novel about deception and broken dreams, but also the strength of the sisterhood the brides develop. The girls work as hard as the men and eventually prosper. It is also about racism with Koreans being treated badly by white people and the Japanese. The Koreans want to be free from Japanese occupation, but they are deeply divided as to how to proceed. Through it all Willow is able to save money, raise her children by herself when her husband goes to China to fight the Japanese, and buy land. It is a historical romance because Willow grows to love her husband and nurses him when he returns from war. The names and places are historically correct. The book also touches on the conflict between parents who have sacrificed so much, only to have their children seek another path in life.