Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Speaking of mothers.............a must read

How well do you really know your own mother? Do you really see her? Really know her? As adults, are we all guilty of seeing our mother in a one-dimensional form, one that begins in need when we are children?  Are we destined to always see our mothers through our own hopes and dreams? When a devoted mother leaves her remote, rural village to visit her adult children and goes missing in a crowded subway station in Seoul, a large Korean family wrestles with loss, guilt, blame, and love as they each question their emotional role in their mother's disappearance. How could this happen? And why can't she make her way back to them? Please Look After Mom by Korean author Shin Kyung-Sook is a most heartbreaking look at family dynamics, cultural expectations, and grief as each family member struggles to understand the mother they thought they knew, and the one they never took time to know.

"You stop arguing with Hyong-chol, because you realize that you're pushing him to take care of everything, as you always do. Leaving Father at Hyong-chol's house, you all head home. If you don't leave then, you will continue to argue. You've been doing that for the past week. You'd meet to discuss how to find Mom, and one of you would unexpectedly dig up the different ways someone else had wronged her in the past. The things that had been suppressed, that had been carefully avoided moment by moment, became bloated, and finally you all yelled and smoked and banged out the door in rage.

When you first heard Mom had gone missing, you angrily asked why nobody from your large family went to pick her and Father up at Seoul Station.

"And where were you?"

Me? You clammed up. You didn't find out about Mom's disappearance until she'd been gone four days. You all blamed each other for Mom's going missing, and you all felt wounded."

It was pure coincidence that I was reading Please Look After Mom
over Mother's Day weekend. When I finished, I found myself thinking how little I knew about my own mother's hopes and dreams and how I never asked her these questions while she was alive. This thought had been something I had been thinking about as I have gotten older and though I could ask the people in her life, how much better to ask your own mother if you can. I think it would be a lovely conversation. For both of you.  

Link to NY Times review


  1. beautiful post. sounds just like a perfect book for me. I will look for it. thanks for the touching review. I have always felt most of us see our parents from a child's perspective only - never knowing their full selves...


  2. What a sensitive well written analysis and preview. I definitely will buy and read this book. And by the way, if my own kids don't ask, I tell them anyway...merci

  3. Yes, it's easy to just fall into our roles..mother,daugter. Thanks for the reminder to listen and ask questions beyond that realm.

    love DJ

  4. wow- sounds like a must read. What you mentioned about one dimension is so true Sande, It's a difficult subject for me x

  5. You are so right Sande. My mum was lovely but, I didn't really know what her dreams and aspirations were. I think that we always think of these questions when it's too late.
    I am putting the book on my 'must read' list. XXXX

  6. That sounds like an amazing novel. I'll have to put it on my ever growing reading list!

    I used to see my mom as one dimensional when I was little. I'm a military child and my mom's a military wife so I really didn't get a chance to be one of those who grew up to see her as someone with only one side, one face. I've seen a lot of my mom's sides and some of them are scary, but I still love her.

    She's more than just a mom to me. She's over the years become a friend and a three-dimensional person. I'm very lucky that's she someone who thinks that her kids shouldn't just know the "mother" side. She tries to show us she's a person. I think that's why I love her more than ever now; she's a person, not a character!

  7. Sounds like a very thought provoking book and one for the summer reading list.

  8. I recently added this book to my list on Amazon. Thank you for the great review. It's so true about mothers. My mother is one of those people who can give up everything for family. The first time I moved abroad was when I really started to appreciate my mother. I now make it a point to take a trip with her every year (we both love travel) and to call her often. She may not have a college education, but her insights about life always put things into perspective for me.

  9. This is a beautiful and thought provoking blog. Thank you Sande x

  10. Sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for the very thoughtful post.


  11. Sande,
    Words so true. As my mother has aged, I find I don't know her anymore and the mother that raised me is no longer the same. I will make a note of this book and put it on my reading list.


Your comments are such a lovely addition to my day. Thank you.


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