Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Please Look After Mother by Kyung-Sook Shin

Remember Mother
review by Maryom

So-nyo travels with her husband from the Korean countryside to visit their children in Seoul. In the packed station they become separated - instead of stepping on to the train behind her husband, she is pushed aside by the crowd and he doesn't realise she's gone until the train is moving away. Although he gets off at the first stop and returns to the platform, his wife is no where to be seen.

Please Look After Mother follows the family's desperate search for, and reminiscences about, their missing mother who for so long they have taken for granted, never realising the many sacrifices she made for them.

It's an interesting exploration of how many children, even when grown up themselves, take their mothers for granted, seeing them only as 'mother' not as a person in their own right and of how the roles of parent and child swap over in parents old age.

An awkward book to review insofar as I think a lot of people will find it deeply moving, tear jerking.. but I didn't. The family desperately rack their brains over what to do, where to look, over the things that Mother meant to them ... but it didn't move me.There were some things in particular that I took objection to - particularly the concept that now Mother was missing, her elder daughter was suddenly going to follow her wishes and get married.
Part of my interest in reading this was the fact that it's foreign - as part of my Round The World reading challenge. I was a bit disappointed in that I didn't get a real feel for Korea as I read - perhaps the focus of the book is on people's feelings rather than their surroundings but Seoul seemed like any other city and despite the growing of exotic (to us) vegetables the countryside could have been anywhere.
Overall an engaging but slightly predictable read.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Orion

Genre - adult, literary fiction

Buy Please Look After Mother from Amazon

Other reviews; Winstonsdad's Blog


  1. I was disappointed with this book after reading such good reviews and it seemed such an interesting story. I did find it moving in parts but I found it muddling as it was written in split times that seemed to drift into each other, I had to keep checking if we were in the past or the present and who the narrator was. I also found the characters faceless I couldnt 'see' or imagine the children their personalities seemed vague. The mother was much easier to imagine I most enjoyed the pharmasist's description of the woman he thought was the mother standing outside his shop with her poorly foot,that came alive for me them but on the whole I found it very abstract perhaps that says more about me than the author

    Maybe I need to read it again

  2. This is an intriguing look at a Korean family who could be any ethnic group in which taking for granted a loved one until you lose what turns out to be most cherished is a common fault. The husband and two children were embarrassed by their mom until she vanishes; now they're worried and remorseful while mom reflects back on her loneliness due to her performing her motherhood duty. Filled with pathos and a strong underlying message to cherish those you love before it is too late, readers will relish this profound tale made even more poignant by the rotating viewpoint.