Please Look After Mom
By Kyung-Sook Shin
Vintage, Paperback, 9780307739513, April 2012, 272pp.
The Short of It:
The sacrifices that a mother makes for her children and husband are not fully realized until she goes missing.
The Rest of It:
Sometimes you read a book and it stays with you for a very long time. Please Look After Mom is one such book.
Sixty-nine year old So-nyo is with her husband at a Seoul rail station when they become separated from each other. Suddenly, days have passed and she has not been found. As the family gathers to post flyers, each of them find themselves questioning the life she’s lived and the sacrifices she’s made. As their search continues and the days pass without any news, they discover things about their mother that they never knew and it dawns on them that the severe headaches she complained of and the lapses in memory were perhaps more serious than she let on.
This book hit me hard. As a daughter, I just kept thinking of my own mom who passed away late last year and how so many things were left unsaid between us. Mental illness and addiction took center stage and I was left to dream about a mother I could never have. But then you look at this book from a mother’s perspective and you can certainly see why she did the things that she did. I’m telling you, this book grabbed me from all directions and it nearly caused me to “ugly cry” and that’s saying a lot.
Parts of the story are told using a second person point of view which always throws me off. Once I got used to it and how it was used to tell the story, it just felt right for the author to share the story that way. There’s an intimacy to it that leaves you feeling a little uncomfortable, which in this case wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling. It just really got me thinking about mothers, children, marriage and everything in between.
I can’t even adequately tell you how this book made me feel because it affected me on so many levels but it was a really good read and very different from what I’ve been reading lately. I’m so glad my book club chose it for our May meeting. Looking forward to the discussion.
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17 thoughts on “Review: Please Look After Mom”
I can see why that book affected you so much. It sounds like a tough, but important, read.
It center about this Korean family but the situation would be the same no matter what country the story took place in. Moms can be a little selfish at times when they think they know it all but they also give up tons, often huge pieces of themselves for the sake of their kids. I feel all wrung out.
I read this book a few years ago and it moved me beyond words. It’s still one of my top favorite books So excited this morning to read your review. You’re the first person I know that’s read it!! Like you I think everyone should read it but I think some people have difficulty with intimate books like this. You have to be ready to face your own realities I guess.
When I saw this book on your sidebar I wondered how it would affect you. I can definitely understand why it would affect you so much and reacting with an “ugly cry” would have been totally understandable as well. I’m glad you were able to get so much from this story. Sounds like it was meant to be chosen for your book club pick.
I don’t shed tears often when reading. I did so for A Little Life, We Need to Talk About Kevin and this one I just felt like sobbing. I didn’t but my face got all cringy like I was about to. It’s just so sad to think how much a mother did for you and yet, there are no recent photos of her to put on the flyer! Hits you in the gut.
Great review! Makes me want to read it even more.
If you read it, you won’t ever forget it. Very memorable and thought provoking.
This book has been on my list for a couple of years. Thanks for the reminder. Maybe I’ll even suggest it to my book club!
We haven’t even had our club discussion yet but I know there will be tons to discuss. Every review I’ve read says something about this book changing you and I’d say that’s a true statement.
Oh, this one sounds really good and potentially intense regarding my own relationship with my mom
This is the type of book that even if you had a really good relationship with your mom, you will think about how much she did for you or gave up, etc. It was really intense for me.
Sounds like a tough read, I can understand why it hard on you. Our book group just discussed – Everything I Never told You. I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it. Dysfunctional parents and children who are affected as a result.
I read Everything I Never Told You for book club. She has a new one out, which I managed to snag, Little Fires Everywhere.
I can only imagine what you were thinking and feeling when you read this book. Bravo for reviewing it.
Oh, gosh, this sounds like a tough but wonderful read. I read another book by this author and thought it was quite good, but this one really has sounded so much better than that. I hope you’ve got a nice easy comfort book lined up to read next, though!
I hope it makes for a good discussion at your book club. I actually read this one — quite a few years ago (it’s not even on my blog) and I dont recall it well but it was sad and grim.
The tone was rather heavy but then again, I was reading all sorts of things into it given the recent passing of my mom. I had never even heard of it or the author until it was pitched at book club. I am really glad I got to read it though even though it made me want to dig a hole and jump in.