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Please Look After Mother [Hardcover]

Kyung-Sook Shin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 April 2011

Please Look After Mother is the story of So-nyo, a wife and mother, who has lived a life of sacrifice and compromise. In the past she suffered a stroke, leaving her vulnerable and often confused. Now, travelling from the Korean countryside to the Seoul of her grown-up children, So-nyo is separated from her husband when the doors close on a packed train.

As her children and husband search the streets, they recall So-nyo's life, and all they have left unsaid. Through their piercing voices, we begin to discover the desires, heartaches, and secrets she harboured within. And as the mystery of her disappearance unravels, we uncover a larger mystery, that of all mothers and children: how affection, exasperation, hope and guilt add up to love. Compassionate, redemptive and beautifully written, Please Look After Mother will reconnect you to the story of your own family, and to the forgotten sacrifices that lie at its heart.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First Edition edition (14 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297860739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297860730
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 398,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A moving Korean novel questions the reliability of memory... Up to a point the novel plots South Korea's postwar growth against the death of its families in predictably allegorical ways...It is only in the moving chapter when Mother finally speaks for herself that her face suddenly swings into radiantly clear focus. The irony is that only Shin's readers get to see it. (MARGARET HILLENBRAND, Lec, Chinese Lit, Oxford Uni THE FINANCIAL TIMES - 16/4/11)

¿a captivating story, written with an understanding of the shortcomings of traditional ways and modern life. It is nostalgic but unsentimental, brutally well observed and, in this flawlessly smooth translation by Chi-Young Kim, it offers a sobering account of a vanished past... We must hope there are more translations to follow." (TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT - 29/4/11)

An extraordinary novel about regret and our relations with those we love. (Antonio Berardi, designer HARPERS BAZAAR - July 2011)

"I'm an emotional wreck. Intensity is heartbreaking... far too traumatised to sleep last night! complex emotional tidal wave left me feeling exhausted! Swept me along... willing for good fortune + happy end. Final haunting pages will stay me forever. Beautifully written. Emotionally charged." (Sandy Mahal, The Reading Agency @readwithsandy twitter feed)

...The picture that emerges, of an unappreciated mother who sacrificed her life for her family, [may be] familiar... but the story somehow works, redeemed by the resolute So-nyo of the last chapters, a woman her husband and children never knew. (Tina Jordan Entertainment Weekly)

Questions punctuate [the] narrative and lead to a cascade of revelations, discoveries that come gradually... Shin's prose, intimate, and hauntingly spare, powerfully conveys grief's bewildering immediacy. And yet this book isn't as interested in emotional manipulation as it is in the invisible chasms that open up between people who know one another best... A raw tribute to the mysteries of motherhood. (Mythili G. Rao The New York Times Book Review)

Titles to Pick Up Now: This best-seller set in the author's native Korea examines a family's history through the story of the matriarch, mysteriously gone missing from a Seoul train sation. (Karen Holt O, the Oprah Magazine)

The universal resonance of family life lifts a novel rooted in the experience of Korean modernity to international success. A best-seller in her native South Korea, Shin's Please Look After Mom tells the story of Park So-nyo, a devoted, do-all wife and mother who mysteriously goes missing... the book-Shin's first to be translated into English- is a moving portrayal of the surprising nature, sudden sacrifices, and secret reveries of motherhood. (Lisa Shea Elle)

An enormous publishing success in South Korea, this simple portrait of a family shocked into acknowledging the strength and heroic self-sacrifice of the woman at its center is both universal and socially specific... Partly a metaphor for Korea's social shift from rural to urban, partly an elegy to the intensity of family bonds as constructed and maintained by self-denying women, this is tender writing. (Kirkus Reviews)

Indelible... Shin's breathtaking novel is an acute reminder of how easily a family can fracture, how little we truly know one another, and how desperate need can sometimes overshadow even the deepest love.... Already a prominent writer in Korea, Shin makes her English-language debut with what will appeal to all readers who appreciate compelling, page-turning prose. Stay tuned: [Please Look After Mother] should be one of this year's most deserving bestsellers. (Terry Hong Library Journal)

Affecting... Poignant and psychologically revealing... Readers should find resonance in this family story, a runaway bestseller in Korea poised for a similar run here. (Publishers Weekly)

... the most moving and accomplished, and often startling, novel in translation I've read in many seasons. (WALL STREET JOURNAL -28.05.11)

'what the characters and readers of... South Korean author Kyung-sook Shin discover is that in the mother's absence she is only more powerfully present.' (REUTERS - 31.05.11)

Book Description

Combining a unique setting with universal themes, PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOTHER is a tear-jerking, beautifully rendered novel about sacrifice, guilt, and the ties of family love.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tender and Tragic Tale of Family in Korea 18 Mar 2011
By Feanor
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Splintered narratives are in vogue in Korea, and this bestseller is a doozy. Four narrators describe their relationships over their lifetimes with Mother, an almost archetypal figure of self-abnegation and love. Towards the twilight of her life, she is separated in a train station from her husband and goes missing. The narrators, veering between despair, panic and utter callousness, recall their experiences of her.

The title in English misses the nuance of the Korean, which translates directly as 'I entrust Mum to you'. Mother is of humble origins but not without pride. She sacrifices herself for her eldest boy who remains the apple of her eye well into her old age. She is illiterate, and can't read the books that have made her elder daughter famous. The son is suffused with guilt at not necessarily having achieved all Mother wanted him to. The daughter, increasingly sophisticated with age, is irritated by her mother's superstition and stubborness, and then regrets the distance that not even love can easily bridge. Father, too, has his reasons for despair - he didn't help Mother as she spiralled into illness, both physical and mental, and he became increasingly more self-indulgent, intolerant of his wife. The family strains and creaks under these revelations, both introspective and narrative. How little they cherished Mother when she stood as their bedrock, and how much they miss her when she is lost, alone and defenceless. The little tragedies of life come to roost, and - unlike in most redemptive fiction - there are no easy answers in this tender and tragic tale.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This novel makes us look inwards and feel guilty 30 Aug 2011
By Puskas
Although I should have no reason to feel guilty about my own relationship with my elderly parents, the skill of this book is that it causes us to question the roles of the generations, and our treatment of elderly relatives when we ourselves reach adulthood. The 'mother' of the title is Son-yo who has, like many others of her generation, sacrificed self and sanity for the betterment of her husband and five children, disregarding her own views, desires and even health to promote theirs.

The book tells the story of the elderly, confused peasant mother, Son-yo, who goes missing when she fails to board a train in Seoul, Korea, with her husband on a visit to one of their children. The story is told from the perspective of the mother, her children and her husband. Did any of them really know her? Did they realise that she had been illiterate? Could they even remember the colour of the sandals she wore around her septic toe?

The use of 'you', mentioned by other reviewers, could be just the result of translation irregularities.

As generations evolve and change, they try to judge previous generations from their own standpoints, which is what we should never do! Thus the adult children fail to value the world and work of their mother, and do not appreciate her role in their lives until she is no longer there for them.

It wasn't a pleasant read because it forced me to confront generational differences, but I think its power will stay with me for a long time.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Regret and Loss 15 Mar 2011
By lovemurakami TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Please Look After Mother is a novel about regret and how we wish we could go back and change how we relate to the people we love.

A mother goes missing in Seoul and her family are left trying to find her by producting flyers and searching for her. As you read this Korean novel you find out how the mother becomes lost in Seoul and you are given an insight into her life through the eyes of her daughter, son and husband, and how her going missing makes them review their attitude towards her, making them realise how they never fully appreciated her and how they never told her how much she meant to each of them.

This is a quietly, compelling novel dealing with motherhood and family, and is well worth a read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed review 3 July 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Please Look After Mother," tells the story of a Korean family and how their lives are changed when So-nyo, the wife and mother goes missing. After getting separated from her husband when travelling to Seoul in the subway station, the elderly and often confused So-nyo disappears.

Through the narrative a picture is drawn of the families' individual lives as they search for So-nyo and begin to reminisce about the past. I particularly enjoyed the revelations as each family member recognised how much their mother has done for them and how perhaps they haven't appreciated her as much as they should.

I did find the story quite confusing to follow at times with the use of the second person as the word `you' is used by a variety of different narrators as well as the plot moving back and forward in time. I also found that whilst I gained a good understanding of So-nyo and her life story the other members of her family were not so well painted. Overall I found Kyung-Sook Shin's acclaimed novel to be unique and heartfelt but nonetheless slightly disappointing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Please look after Mother 7 Feb 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this an unusual book but it did seem to be very repetitive. I was not too keen to pick it up after a while just wanted to finish it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By sally tarbox TOP 500 REVIEWER
Elderly and unwell, Mother becomes separated from her husband in the Seoul metro. Her children put up adverts and begin to reproach themselves and each other. They look back on her life, given up to the care of them and their father; to consider how they became dismissive and short-tempered with her as she grew older, taking her selflessness for granted. Her husband remembers how little attention he paid to her illness and how he left her to care for the children years ago.
This book works because Mother isn't just a saccharine character but a real human being.
The sections are written from the point of view of her children and of her husband; in the final part we hear Mother's voice. It makes you consider how you're treating your own family.
I also found it interesting to read a book set in a country I know little about; the modern society of the young is similar to our own, but the wartime recollections of poverty and food shortage are still very much part of the mindset of the older generation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very moving thought provoking story!
Published 8 days ago by Hanna
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad, heart-rendering , wonderful
Excellent if like me you like Asian Films and Dramas. As with all Korean Films, always exciting, always sad, and always full of action
Published 10 days ago by Seligor
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive reading
A book that should be read by all 'children'. Unusual style and captivating story-line. Thought-provoking and very memorable.
Published 1 month ago by Janet Walmsley
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book
I loved this book. Beautifully written, with several points of view, and a lovely way of getting to know something about South Korea. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't take your mother for granted!
I have a volatile relationship with my mother. Some days I love her, some days I hate her. This book made me remember how not to take her for granted. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mavvis
1.0 out of 5 stars Won't open book only have cover
Won't open on kindle so nothing to read tried to contact several times had no response poor service have a product which not able to use
Published 4 months ago by Denice Heslop
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommend it
A very touching book written in a very special style.
A mother's love that goes above everything (although the kids might not realize that until later... too late...)
Published 7 months ago by barb151
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'must read' for all who have parents, husbands or wives
Kyung-Sook Shin's story about an elderly woman, So-nyo, who goes missing on the Seoul underground won the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Dr R
1.0 out of 5 stars Reason only one star
Didn't really enjoy but always read book to end, it was a bit confusing had to really think where you were,
Published 12 months ago by Ruth Hayes
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, Easy read
Really enjoyable interesting read. Nice references to Korean culture and food. Interestingly written in the third party. Quick easy read with only 200-300 pages. Read more
Published 14 months ago by A J C
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