SPOILER ALERT!

Review: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

 

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'Please Look After Mom' by Kyung-sook Shin is an intriguing, if sometimes difficult, book to read. A best-seller in her native Korea, it's the chronicle of the dynamics within a family after their elderly mother goes missing in Seoul. Told in four segments- each from POV- a daughter, an eldest son, her husband, and a conjecture about the missing woman, each person struggles to come to terms with what it meant to be the mother of their family, and what it may have cost her.

 

The difficulty comes not from the shifting perspectives, but from the narrative. Often slow and ponderous, their memories, emotions and angst are the meat of the story as you'd expect. But without a true sense of urgency to push it forward, it frequently gets bogged down by weight of everyone's personal baggage as they reflect upon their personal moments with her, finally beginning to understand what her life was like and what she gave up for her family's sake. But that's where it often shines- long buried insights and sudden revelations combine to reveal much about the woman they knew so intimately and yet not at all while also providing a vivid picture of the demands of life in a rural Korean community.

 

There's not much more to add that hasn't already been said, so I'll end with this: W.E.B. Dubois once wrote a book titled 'The Souls of Black Folks'. This one could well be called The Souls of Koreans.