Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Please Look After Mom" | Book R&R

"O love, so long as you can love." - Franz Liszt

Thus begins the novel "Please Look After Mom" by Kyung-Sook Shin, originally published in South Korea in 2008 which centers around the question: "Do we actually know the person we call 'Mom' ?"

Today's blogpost is a Book Review&Recommendation at the same time (hence Book 'R&R'). I've read this novel in English even though it's primarily written in Korean, but it didn't bother me at all since the translation is written in such a beautiful and coherent way and because I also partake the opinion that the content should matter the most. If I may say so myself, I'm usually a fast reader and I finished it in one day (it has 274 pages). I think that I would have read it even faster, but there are some books out there which you have to read more slowly or you miss the point. Either way, let me tell you today why I chose this book and why I recommend it to you:

Book Cover Summary:
When sixty-nine-year-old So-nyo is separated from her husband among the crowds in a Seoul subway station, her family begins a desperate search to find her. Yet as long-held secrets and private sorrows begin to reveal themselves, they are forced to wonder: how well did they actually know the woman they called Mom?

First of all, the book is divided into 5 chapters which are written from different perspectives. The perspectives may confuse you a bit at first, but you will get used to it soon.
With each chapter, you get to know an other side of the mother from the perspectives of her children and her husband and finally a little bit from herself.
With each page, you get to know the past of the family and the agony each family member had to deal with.
With each word, you get to know the pain of the mother who sacrifices herself for the lives of others.

"There are moments one revisits after something happens, especially after something bad happens. Moments in which one thinks, I shouldn't have done that."
"Either a mother and daughter know each other very well, or they are strangers."
- Chapter 1, Page 11/19, from the perspective of the eldest daughter

" 'How can you live without trusting people? There are more people who are good than people who are bad!' And she smiled her typical optimistic smile."
-Chapter 2, Page 84, from the perspective of the eldest son who is scolded by his mother as a young adult

"Your wife, whom you'd forgotten about for fifty years, was present in your heart. Only after she disappeared did she come to you tangibly, as if you could reach out and touch her."
-Chapter 3, Page 141, from the perspective of the husband who returns home alone

"Mom doesn't smile. She doesn't cry. Did Mom know? That I, too, needed her my entire life?"
-Chapter 4, Page 246, from the perspective of the mother who sees her own deceased mother before her

"Instead of helping her do the work that she did nonstop, even you thought of it as natural, and took it for granted that this was her job."
-Chapter 5, Page 266, from the perspective of the eldest daughter

This novel left me with a diversity of emotions, so intensely strong and powerful, most of them sad.

The author's voice pierces through our consciousness right inside the deepest core of our hearts. Her lines make our heart ache and at the same her words free us from our shackles, liberating us from feeling guilty since we get to know that we are not alone in our sorrowful and selfish thinking.

I won't tell you the end, whether they could find their Mom or not. But the review of Minneapolis Star-Tribune describes it well: "Lovely....Please Look After Mom, especially ist magical, transcendent ending, lifts the spirit as only the best writing can do."

The first thing I did after finishing the last sentence was to hug my Mom.

Reading this novel opened my eyes in some way or another. It's not that I didn't know what my Mom - or Moms in general - sacrifice for their children. Even so, I think that I never really understood and realised it completely. Just like the children in the novel, I took most things my Mom does for us for granted. So, Mom, let me say this directly to you now: I'm grateful to you. For everything you do for me. I love you. I always will.

"The word 'Mom' is familiar and it hides a plea: Please look after me. Please stop yelling at me and stroke my head; please be on my side, whether I'm right or wrong."
-Chapter 1, Page 20

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