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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tender and Tragic Tale of Family in Korea
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...
Published on 18 Mar 2011 by Feanor

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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Regret and Loss
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...
Published on 15 Mar 2011 by lovemurakami


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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 (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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 "Mortensen" (Warwickshire, England) - See all my reviews
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 "tooty2" (uk) - See all my reviews
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 21 Oct 2014
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I thought that this book would not be as good as all the hype suggests, but I really enjoyed it. The story is very moving and it makes you reconsider all the relationships in your life that you might often take for granted. I don't know how someone who doesn't know much about Korea would find this book as it presents the culture of the older generation of Koreans, but I definitely think it is readable, and it will give not only an insight into a different culture, but enable you to relate to aspects of familial relationships with someone of a completely different background to you. It is not a difficult read, but I think it might be nice to spread out the reading so that you can reflect on the different voices that are provided in the narrative. It is powerful to read, because of the second person narration - so you feel more intimate with the experiences of the characters. The descriptions of rural life, the details of nature and small things that are part of people's lives are all nicely presented and offer you to stop and observe then appreciate them. Some parts might have been melodramatic, but I thought that such instances weren't sentimental and allowed you to treat these characters as not pitiable, but simply human. The last section of the novel might not be to everyone's taste - with the perspective changing to the mother, and perhaps introduces a supernatural or spiritual aspect to the narrative, but at the same time perhaps it is necessary as you get a definite perspective of the mother. The ending with the religious theme completes the novel well, and gives the book more depth than a standard bestseller might. All in all, this book is definitely worth a read, with the writer's writing and flow adding to the enjoyment of reading and the experiences of the characters helping you to think about your own relationships with people who are close to you, and to appreciate them in a new light.
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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
By 
K. Wright - See all my reviews
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"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
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This review is from: Please Look After Mother (Kindle Edition)
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
3.0 out of 5 stars 'you had never thought of Mother as separate from the kitchen...You never wondered, did Mother like being in the kitchen?', 27 May 2012
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A moving story of a Mother's Sacrifice, 3 Sep 2011
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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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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book, 13 April 2011
By 
Laura Smith (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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Well, I loved this book, and couldn't put it down. The book is split into 4 viewpoints - a daughter, a son, a husband, and finally the missing woman. They all look back on life and things that have happened. The son, daughter and husband reflect on what could have been, and what they wished they had done. It is all beautifully written and emotional, and the whole way through the book I felt like I was learning - don't ever take your loved ones for granted. You never know when they will be taken away and you will never get the chance to put things right. I'm passing this book to my mum to read, to see what she makes of it - I think she will love it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't know what you've got til it's gone., 24 May 2011
By 
Charliecat (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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Kyung-Sook Shin's Please Look After Mother is a stunning novel. Heart-breaking and intensely moving it shows just what happens when it's too late to say the things you should have said before - Thank you and I love you. It also shows how difficult it is, or impossible, to recapture your past.

Please Look After Mother is the story of a Korean family which starts to fall apart when their mother, So-nyo, goes missing at rush hour in Seoul Station. Through the different voices of the family members we learn more about So-nyo and about just how much she was the backbone of the family. We learn about how So-nyo sacrificed herself for her family - working in the fields until her fingers were frozen, cooking and preparing food, growing vegetables, brewing malt, washing and making clothes. So-yno led a life of selfless devotion unrecognised by any of her family until it was too late.

Each member of the family is sympathetically drawn and I felt for each one of them. The eldest son who is his mother's pride and joy but does not achieve what his mother felt he could achieve. The sophisticated daughter who is famous for her novels but does not know that her mother cannot read them and the husband, a man who never appreciated his wife while she was there but is now lost without her.
The novel is infused with references to South Korea, the food, the juxtaposition of the country and the city, the old generation and the new one. I enjoyed every minute of this deeply moving novel.
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Please Look After Mother
Please Look After Mother by Kyung-sook Shin
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