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, she urges her mother to allow her to make their annual trip to Mt. Halla, where they trade sea delicacies for pork. A sea-village girl, Junja has never been to the mountains, where it smells like mushrooms and earth, and it is there she falls in love with 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, Suwol gone, and the ghost of her mother haunting their home—from the meticulously tended herb garden that has begun sprouting 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, and Junja's 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, Junja must learn to navigate a tumultuous world unlike anything she's ever known.