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Please Look After Mother Hardcover – 14 Apr 2011

40 customer reviews

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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: 14.3 x 2.6 x 22.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,704 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

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Puskas on 30 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Feanor on 18 Mar. 2011
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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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By lovemurakami TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 Mar. 2011
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pat on 3 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover
My wife's review:

This novel is from widely acclaimed Korean author Shin which focuses on motherhood and family guilt. Park So-nyo, mother of four now-adult children, has gone missing in a Seoul train station on the way to visit them. The novel is told in four parts, from the perspectives of, first, her daughter, and then, her firstborn son, her husband, and finally, So-nyo herself. Composed almost entirely in second-person narration, the writing is sharp, biting, and intensely moving. So-nyo's children continually battle with their own guilt for not taking better care of her while reminiscing about the times when they were young, growing up in incredible poverty in the countryside. The children come to terms with their mother's absence in their own ways, and their father repents for a lifetime of neglect. When So-nyo's voice enters the narrative, the portrait of a troubled but loving family is complete. Secrets are revealed, and the heart of a mother is beautifully exposed.

This Korean million-plus-copy best-seller is an impressive exploration of family love, poverty, and triumphing over hardship. This is a moving story that makes you think about the sacrifices that mother's make for their children.
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Format: Paperback
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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