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“Please, look after mother” - Book Review and Reading Experience


 

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The award-winning book “Please, look after mom” by Kyung Sook-Shin tells the story of a family whose mother went missing in the Seoul Underground Station. Being the frame of the family, her absence brings on deep changes in the familiar environment, as well as it forces each of the daughters, sons, and the father to rethink the concept of “Mother/Wife” they had so far. Such thoughts are exposed by the characters themselves, since each one is owned by a chapter of the book.

One of its particularities is that the narrator keeps on saying “you” throughout the text. However, it is not always clear who he is referring to: sometimes, we think he is talking to himself, as if he was talking alone; other times, the context leads us to believe that we, the readers, are being called in the story. This choice of the author was brilliant to the experience since it allows us to put ourselves in each character´s place. We feel much more intensely the distress, the impotence, the regret, and the doubts of the family.


Many questionings can be inferred from the plot. For example, it works the issue of how much do we really know those who we live with. Like the kids of the missing mother, we are led to think if we do know our relatives, not only in the roles they assume in one situation - usually in the familiar scenario - but as multifaceted individuals who carry on a luggage of life experience, who have grown and adventured the same as us. A touching moment in the story is when the daughter says her mother was not born a mother. Even though it may seem obvious, it makes us think about the individuality of this character. If we stop to reflect, it may even be difficult to think of our mothers as teenagers or children.


Another intriguing matter it tackles is how the habit makes us used to the company of others, and how we only see their value once they are not with us anymore. In the words of the husband:

“If she wanted to read it that badly, she should have asked me to read it to her. You rub your dry, rough face with your hands. If your wife had asked you to read her the novel, would you have read it to her? Before she went missing, you spent your days without thinking about her. When you did think about her, it was to ask her to do something, or to blame her or ignore her. Habit can be a frightening thing. You spoke politely with others, but your words turned sullen toward your wife.”

In the “Epilogue”, the daughter is the one who assumes the trail of the narrative. This is especially meaningful as she starts to realize how much her missing mother has given up and worked hard to raise her siblings and her. Comparing her situation at the moment to when she was a kid, she recognizes all the sacrifices her mother has made.

“I know one thing. I can’t do it like she did. Even if I wanted to. When I’m feeding my kids, I often feel annoyed, burdened, as if they’re holding on to my ankles. I love my kids, and I am moved—wondering, did I really give birth to them? But I can’t give them my entire life like Mom did. “

In the last chapter, the mother is finally given a voice to expose her side of all the events. It is now that we are able to understand in-depth and from another perspective all that was commented on by the kids and the father previously. Also, it is even more moving because the way she tells us about her family makes us feel we are ungrateful towards our own mothers: despite all the family members have recognized about her, when she herself tells us, we notice all the other things she has done that they have not even thought about. It is impossible to not be touched by this “silent sacrifice” of the mother.


Overall, this was a good reading experience. The book is not big, so you can easily read it in three to five days. Still, it makes us reflect a lot. I do recommend it to anyone who wants to read about more “dark” and heavy topics but in a smooth way. Also, it is nice to those who look for contact with Korean culture, since pieces of it are both explicit and implicit throughout the story.

 

Thank you for reading until here! See you next week!


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