MLA Platinum Award Press Release

BookBrowse Reviews Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Please Look After Mom

A Novel

by Kyung-sook Shin

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin X
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2011, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


An international bestseller about one family's search for their missing mother after she disappears in a Seoul subway station

Kyung-Sook Shin's novel Please Look After Mom begins with the disappearance of Park So-nyo, Korean wife and mother. The following chapters - narrated in turns by So-nyo's daughter (an accomplished writer), her eldest son (a successful businessman), her unfaithful husband, and by So-nyo herself - are largely recollections of So-nyo's life and her complete devotion to her family over the decades. Shin uses these characters' viewpoints to explore the themes of family, love, loss and sacrifice.

The overall tone is elegiac, and there's very little joy to be found in this novel. One is sad not only for the people who have lost So-nyo, but for the woman herself, as it gradually becomes apparent that she gave her all to her family but was in turn completely neglected and unappreciated by them. As So-nyo's story is told through each character's reminiscence, she is described as remarkably saintly while her family is revealed to be exceptionally self-absorbed. They have never bothered to notice how key So-nyo is to their lives and happiness; she has been their very core and yet they have all taken her for granted. Only when she's gone do they think about how much she's meant to them, how much they relied on her, and with her disappearance comes the knowledge that their lives have been irreparably changed.

Shin's narrative voices become confusing at times; So-nyo's daughter's and husband's thoughts are relayed in second-person present tense: "Since you heard about Mom's disappearance, you haven't been able to focus on a single thought, besieged by long-forgotten memories unexpectedly popping up." It reads awkwardly and it's frequently hard to tell when "you" refers to the narrator and when the pronoun references a group of people. It's unclear what the author was trying to convey by using this style; perhaps these characters are engaging in self-recrimination by talking to themselves in a reproachful tone. But it's inconsistent, as the equally guilty son's recollections are in third person, and the section narrated by So-nyo is in first person. Some readers may find these different narrative styles distracting.

While the book's themes are universal, its details are specific to rural Asia. The book is filled with descriptions of the everyday lives of Korean farmers as the characters take turns recalling the sacrifices of their mother. The reader learns about farming and cooking, childbirth, the holding of ancestral rights, and dealing with the poverty that often accompanies an agrarian life. It's a fascinating glimpse of a lifestyle unfamiliar to many who are products of Western culture.

The novel does become somewhat melodramatic; So-nyo's utter selflessness surpasses belief, as does the complete indifference of those around her. Still, the book's complex themes and touching nature make it a likely candidate for book clubs and those who enjoy emotional plots. Please Look After Mom is likely to leave sensitive readers weeping by book's end.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in May 2011, and has been updated for the April 2012 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Kyung-sook Shin

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Follow Me to Ground
    Follow Me to Ground
    by Sue Rainsford
    Ada and her father are human-like beings who age slowly and possess the power to heal all illness. ...
  • Book Jacket: Children of the Land
    Children of the Land
    by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
    In this exquisitely crafted memoir, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo describes coming of age as a young ...
  • Book Jacket: A Good Neighborhood
    A Good Neighborhood
    by Therese Anne Fowler
    After fictionalized biographies of Zelda Fitzgerald (Z, 2013) and Alva Vanderbilt (A Well-Behaved ...
  • Book Jacket: Little Gods
    Little Gods
    by Meng Jin
    Little Gods, Meng Jin's intricate, emotionally intelligent debut, opens with a scene in which ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Small Days and Nights
    by Tishani Doshi

    A captivating and clear-eyed story of two sisters, set against the backdrop of modern India.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Sun Down Motel
    by Simone St. James

    The chilling new novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
American Dirt
by Jeanine Cummins

"American Dirt is a Grapes of Wrath for our times."
—Don Winslow

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Lost Family

The Lost Family
by Libby Copeland

A deeply reported look at the rise of home genetic testing and the seismic shock it has had on individual lives.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A F I Need I A F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.