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Please Look After Mom (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – April 3, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 355 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2011: There is a simple, yet remarkable, scene in Kyung-sook Shin’s novel, Please Look After Mom, where the book’s title character visits her adult son in Seoul.  He lives in a duty office in the building where he works, because he can't afford an apartment. At night, they sleep on the floor and she offers to lie next to the wall to shield him from a draft.  “I can fall asleep better if I’m next to the wall,” she says.  And with this gesture, we catch a glimpse of the depth of love she has for her first-born and the duty-bound sacrifices she’s made on behalf her family. Please Look After Mom is the story of a mother, and her family’s search for her after she goes missing in a crowded train station, told through four richly imagined voices:  her daughter’s, her oldest son’s, her husband’s, and finally her own.  Each chapter adds a layer to the story’s depth and complexity, until we are left with an indelible portrait of a woman whose entire identity, despite her secret desires, is tied up in her children and the heartbreaking loss that is felt when family bonds loosen over time. Kyung-sook Shin’s elegantly spare prose is a joy to read, but it is the quiet interstitial space between her words, where our own remembrances and regrets are allowed to seep in, that convicts each one of us to our core.--Shane Hansanuwat

Guest Reviewer: Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford is the New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Some books change us. They change the way we look at ourselves, the way we interact with those closest to our hearts--the way we’ve loved those people, or the way we’ve missed them or honored them or taken them hopelessly for granted. This is one of those books. This is a book that alters the way we remember.

I’m an author, so this is where my own writerly fail-safes kick-in, warning of hype and hyperbole...but even in reflection...I’m not speaking falsely.

Please Look After Mom isn’t merely a story of familial loss and longing, of the many veils of shame and surrender beneath one roof. This tale is a door, and once you cross its threshold, you’ll never be able to go back to that comfortable place you came from. Your perceptions will be transformed. Permanently.

When Park So-nyo, an elderly mother from a rural town visiting her children on her birthday, vanishes over the event horizon of a crowded Seoul train station, four narratives unfold--four dimensions of loss, anger, blame, and sacrifice--four angles of persistence. (Perhaps it’s no mere coincidence that the number four in Korean is a homonym for “death.”)

But as the four pillars of one family are shaken by this mysterious disappearance, we are also enriched as we learn about the wealth of emotional currency that has been exchanged over one lifetime--tender payments, and the debts owed, from children to parent, from husband to wife, from an aged mother to...herself.

This book is four stories, four echoes, four promises, and four lamentations--that make a whole.

This is your gentle warning, dear reader.

And an invitation, to the kind of book I wish I could read again for the first time.

--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

From Booklist

This novel from widely acclaimed Korean author Shin 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. --Julie Hunt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307739511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307739513
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWER on March 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kyung-Sook Shin has written an exceptional novel and I can see why it is a bestseller in its native language, in Korea. It is a story about relationships, about families and those close to us. The story is about a mother who is separated from her husband when boarding a train in Seoul, South Korea,on the way to visit her eldest son and her family's search for her. It is told in four voices, a daughter, a son, a husband and a mother. The story unfolds in mostly second-person narration, from the point of view of each these characters. The translator, Chi-Young Kim did an excellent job with the translation and made it seem as though it were originally written in English.

Rather than being given a lot of intimate details about each of these people, the author brings us into the drama of the mother disappearing at the station, and although we come to know a little more about the mother, there are really more questions than answers about the other family members. I normally like stories with a lot of character development, but somehow, this really worked and I was quickly drawn in, perhaps in the way of an accident or other tragedy where you don't want to look, but somehow need to know how and why it happened and how the people involved are affected. In many cases Kyung-Sook Shin gives only a few details and it is up to the reader to fill in the blanks. It gives a glimpse into the culture of present day South Korea both in a large city and in a rural area and we can see how much things have changed in only a single generation. It only took a few pages to become very involved.

This story is about complex emotions and interactions between family members. It was striking how differently each member of the family handled the disappearance.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a unique novel, unlike anything I had read before. It is extraordinarily emotional. I couldn't put it down.

A wife and husband have journeyed from their family farm to the city to visit their grown children. He rushes onto a subway train, expecting her to follow. He travels several stops before he even realizes she's not there.

The family has to deal with the trauma of having their mother/wife/sister-in-law missing. She has various health problems that add to their concerns, and time passes with few leads. They all recall past events that make them realize how important she was to them and how they took her devotion and hard work for granted. They also begin to comprehend how little they truly knew about her feelings, hopes and dreams - - the person behind labels like "mother" or "wife."

The book is alternately heartbreakingly sad and uplifting. It will make you want to hug every person you care about and tell them how much you love them. Better yet, I hope it will make you ask them questions about who they truly are, what their childhood was like, what they wanted in life. All those things you can't ask after they are gone.

It was also fascinating to read about Korean culture and history as it related to the family. However, in the long run, this book is a universal story of human life, equally relevant to modern America.

I highly, highly recommend this beautiful book to everyone. In fact, it should be required reading because you will never see your family, particularly your mother, the same way again.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I don't remember ever feeling so fortunate to get my hands on an Advance Reader's Copy, than I did after finishing this English translated Korean best seller, Please Look After Mom. This is definitely one of my favorite Vine books, and it will certainly have a place among my favorites in my personal library.

The novel revolves around an elderly Korean woman, Park So-nyo, who goes missing after losing contact with her husband at the Seoul subway station. As her family feverishly searches for her, the reader gets a taste of what type of person Park So-nyo was, and a feel for the relationships she shared with her loved-ones. The whole book is told in 4 chapters, by 4 different characters: 2 of the missing woman's children, her husband, and the missing woman herself.

I loved every minute that I was able to steal away and read Kyung-soak Shin's poetic prose, and I'd recommend this book to anyone who is a mother, who knows a mother, or who has a mother.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Please Look After Mom" is the kind of book I find myself gravitating towards these days...books about different cultures. This book delivers great insight into the Korean culture and the interfamial workings of a Korean family. Each of the four relationships are depicted from the point of view of the individual. The central point of the book is the varied reactions of four family members to the mysterious loss of their Mom at a crowded Seoul Train Station. Father gets on the train but Mom does not. The family reacts as most families would. We never do find out exactly what happened to Mom.

Two negatives with this book: the use of the word "You" for every character brings confusion as to who is speaking. Second: I enjoyed the book but could not get excited about reading it straight through. I procrastinated and took weeks to finish it. This is the reason I gave this book 3 stars. I would not discourage readers from reading it but be advised that is's a slow read.

S O'Brien, Illinois
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