Book Jar Reads: Please Look After Mother by Kyung-Sook Shin

Another book from the Jar! I’m really glad this one came out as it’s one of those that I bought with all intentions of reading it ASAP but then it never happened. This is pretty typical of me. I really really REALLY enjoyed it and think everyone should read it, right now.

Please Look After Mother was hugely successful in Korea, with over 1 million sales and I don’t see why it shouldn’t achieve the same elsewhere – it’s brilliant. From it’s beautiful jacket to the fantastic, quirky narrative voice(s), I could not have enjoyed it more. Summary:

A million-plus-copy best seller in Korea—a magnificent English-language debut poised to become an international sensation—this is the stunning, deeply moving story of a family’s search for their mother, who goes missing one afternoon amid the crowds of the Seoul Station subway.

Told through the piercing voices and urgent perspectives of a daughter, son, husband, and mother, Please Look After Mom is at once an authentic picture of contemporary life in Korea and a universal story of family love.

You will never think of your mother the same way again after you read this book.

This novel is written in the second person. A second person narrative is really weird and quite difficult to get your head around to begin with. Take this short extract:

“You want to go and look for her in places you think she might be, but you know how she is: she can’t go anywhere by herself in this city. Hyong-chol designates you to write up the flyer since you write for a living. You blush, as if you were caught doing something you shouldn’t. You aren’t sure how helpful your words will be in finding Mother.”

I think it’s brilliant, I think it’s just a fantastic way to write and taking this angle means you see things you wouldn’t see if it was third or first person, it feels more honest. The author does this for four separate characters, all expressing how the loss of Mother has affected them and made them think whilst also taking us back in time to when they were children, Mother and Father were newly married of even before.

This novel makes you think  A LOT. At the end of the novel there’s the almost poetic repetition of ‘After Mother went missing’ and how the character/s feel about things, what it’s made them realise and how much Mother really meant. Life without Mother is completely different and the novel has the added twist that Mother could still be out there, somewhere, she hasn’t simply died she’s missing.  It’s only through losing Mother that all the characters are able to truly see her and it makes this a very sad, poignant read.

Brilliance!

Rating: ★★★★¾