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

  • 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 May 2011, and has been updated for the April 2012 paperback release. 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" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Kyung-sook Shin

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Immortalists
    The Immortalists
    by Chloe Benjamin
    On a summer day in 1969 in New York City, the Gold children agree to seek out a mysterious ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Hearts of Men
    by Nickolas Butler
    Set mostly in the woodlands of north Wisconsin, Nikolas Butler spins a familial saga that explores ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

A story that is at once quirky, charming, heartbreaking, suspenseful and poignant.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Chalk Man
    by C. J. Tudor

    Relentlessly compelling psychological suspense. The must-read thriller debut of 2018.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Driest Season

Win One of 50 Copies of This Exceptional Debut!

A deeply affecting story of loss, heartache, and—finally—hope.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A J O A Thousand M B W O S

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 books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.