Please Look After Mom

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin - 254 pages
Book Blurb:
When sixty-nine-year-old So-nyo is separated from her husband among the crowds of the Seoul subway station, her family begins a desperate search to find her. Yet as long-held secrets and private sorrows begin to reveal themselves, they are forced to wonder: how well did they actually know the woman they called Mom?
Told through the piercing voices and urgent perspectives of a daughter, son, husband, and mother, Please Look After Mom is at once an authentic picture of contemporary life in Korea and a universal story of family love.
My Review: 3 stars
I’m definitely glad I stuck with this book as it took some time to get used to the 2nd person point of view. At first it was disconcerting and I’m still not sure if it was the translators doing or if it was meant to be that way. Either way, once the reader gets used to it, it becomes 2nd nature, no pun intended! This book is truly an homage to moms. It’s about their silent selflessness, private loneliness, blatant ignorance of their own medicinal needs and their unconditional love. Unfortunately, it’s sad how often these traits go unnoticed until the ‘mom’ is missing or gone. Told from different points of view, this book tries to piece together the why, how and where this lost mom has gone as they slowly, through the gift of memory, recall who she really was. The description of both the Korean countryside and the city itself were beautifully recalled. This was written by a best-selling author from South Korea and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.
Quotes I liked:
- “You were caught off guard. You had never thought of Mom as separate from the kitchen. Mom was the kitchen and the kitchen was Mom. You never wondered, Did Mom like being in the kitchen?”

- “But Mom’s headaches stole the smiles from her face. Her headaches jabbed at her soul and slowly ate away at it, like field mice with sharp teeth.”

- “Before she went missing, you spent your days without thinking about her. When you did think about her, it was to ask her to do something, or to blame her or ignore her. Habit can be a frightening thing.”

- After your children’s mother went missing, you realized that it was your wife who was missing. Your wife, whom you’d forgotten about for fifty years, was present in your heart. Only after she disappeared did she come to you tangibly, as if you could reach out and touch her.”

- “People say that when a baby is crying the paternal grandmother will say, ‘The baby is crying, you should feed her,’ and the maternal grandmother will say, ‘Why is that baby crying so much, making her mom so tired?’”

- “Life is sometimes amazing fragile, but some lives are frighteningly strong. My elder daughter says that when you mowed down weeds with a tractor, the weeds cling to the wheels of the  tractor and spread seeds, to breed even at the moment they’re being cut.”

Tags: 2014, Mystery, Family, Korea, Mothers/Daughters, Asian

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