Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Please Look After Mom

Please Look After Mom
Author: Kyung-Sook Shin
Knopf, 2011
256 pages

As one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month for April 2011, this international bestseller comes from South Korea and is the author's first book translated into English. I'll just go ahead and tell you that I was blown away. The plot is wrapped around the disappearance of an elderly woman from the countryside as she travels to the city. While making a connection at the busy Seoul Station, her husband gets on the connecting train, but she doesn't. As her family searches for her, they experience flashbacks of their mother's life, and slowly begin to see her not just as a (strict) mother or (nagging) wife, but as a unique individual with her own hopes, dreams, and life.

The book's four sections are "narrated" by four different characters. Two of the sections are written in second person. This turns out to be a brilliant writing technique. As the story unfolds, her husband and their four children (who grew up to be a successful businessman, a famous author, an internet entrepreneur and a pharmacist) experience a sort of awakening . . . and lots of guilt.  Through their memories, they realize the sacrifices made by this amazing woman they called Mother (or Wife). 

Kyung-Sook Shin is clearly a genius at her craft. Many times, I found myself thinking of my own Mother, coming to a new appreciation of the sacrifices she has made for me over the years, and feeling like a dolt for not being able to see that she always has my best interests in mind. Most likely, this will happen to you as well if you read Please Look After Mom. So be forewarned that you'll probably want to give your Mom a hug, or phone her, or visit if you haven't seen her in a while. I would say do it now while you can -- if you can. I think that might just be an underlying message of this incredibly beautiful and moving book.