‘Please Look After Mom’ is a novel by South Korean author Kyung-sook Shin and its English translation won the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize. One day, So-nyo, a sixty-nine-year-old mother, gets lost in the subway of Seoul where she was with her husband. After her disappearance, her family begins a frantic search for her and they come to discover gradually how little they knew about the life of the woman they called Mom/wife.
‘Please Look After Mom’ is one of those books that stay with you for a couple of days after you’ve finished reading it. It’s one of those books that make you put yourself in the characters’ shoes and start wondering if what the characters are feeling or going through is something you may have been feeling or going through as well.
I loved the way this book was written. Each chapter is narrated in second person by a different member of the family that lost their mother/wife, and it’s quite interesting to discover what each one of them knew (or didn’t know) about Mother. Mother’s character is wonderfully built and shaped in the reader’s mind even before she has the chance to speak as a character for herself.
I feel that the book kept many things untold, many questions unanswered, but then again I think those details (like the reason Mother vanished) weren’t really the point of this book. The members of the family are gradually discovering things about their Mother that they had never even heard or imagined before, and that makes you think if you really know the people that surround you, even your own family, as well as you think you do.
The book leaves off a bitter taste by the end. It’s sad to wait for someone to disappear from your life in order to realize how important they were. And it’s sad to realize it when it’s too late and there is no way to restore your relationship.