Monday, March 18, 2013

Please Look After Mom

I honestly cannot remember how I came to find Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, but I am really glad that I did. This book won the Man Asian Prize in 2011 and has been an international best seller.

Please Look After Mom is told in five different parts with four different points of view, all members of the same family. The elderly Mom goes missing in Seoul and her children and husband begin searching for her. Chi-hon is one of the daughters, a writer who had an education that Mom could not have dreamed of. While searching for mom, Chi-hon, and the others, reflect on how they treated Mom over the course of a lifetime and what Mom's life meant to her. There are so many things that struck me about this book.

"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?"

We get Mom's life story over the course of the book, told from her children and husband. It is heartbreaking and seems so true. My heart ached for all of the characters in the book, even the ones who had clearly mistreated Mom before she went missing.

"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."

This book reminded me a lot of Big Breasts and Wide Hips. While Please Look After Mom is much shorter in length, it is a similar richly dense family story centered on the mother who does anything to keep her family intact. However, Mother from Big Breasts and Wide Hips was more admirable to me in some ways than Mom. But, I really enjoyed Please Look After Mom and highly recommend.

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