Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Souk Shin

Please Look After MotherPlease Look After Mom by Kyung-Souk Shin –  This book is about a Korean Family in which early in the story we learn that the elderly mother, the matriarch of the family, is missing. She was coming to Seoul, the big city, with her husband when their hand grasp was loosened in a crowded train station. This is the premise which the author uses to examine the role  of the mother in this family, at the same times she is able to touch upon universal issues in relationships in every culture. This is particularly poignant where mother comes from poverty and can’t give her children more than the sweat of her brow and the food off of her plate. To give your child what you never had is an understandable dream of a parent who saw so much around her that she couldn’t reach. For some parents it may be an education  or even the ability read, freedom from hunger , a career, travel, knowledge of the world etc. How much should a mother show of  her insecurity to her children and will this change with age when the children hopefully can obtain some of the things the parents could never have. Then there are secrets of the parents that the children never know. Even if the children think they know the secrets and what went on behind the scenes, they may not know the whole story. Did the children really know about Father and the other woman? Would they dare even to think that mother had a secret man friend . Certainly this book makes the reader reflect on whether we really understood our own mothers as well as whether our children really know us. Perhaps in guise of protecting a child, there is less sharing of goals, frustrations and even triumphs. Do grown children do the same thing with parents? Does this lead to less closeness and empathy for each other? Through the eyes of the family members we also appreciate how there can be delayed or postponed expressions of appreciation for each other and how one might regret this as time runs out. A worthy lesson of this book. As beautiful and as poignant as some of the insights of this book might be, it is quite repetitious. It loses much of it’s value as it hammers home the lessons and points it is making. It is one thing to tug at the reader’s heartstrings and try to make universal truths about essence of motherhood. However, to rehash it from several points of view, including a view of bird looking in some family interactions (bird’s eye view?) doesn’t not make a pleasant reading experience in this writer’s opinion. It seemed to me, there should have been some fresh new understanding and insight that was lacking in this book. One of the children of the mother in this story was described as being a successful author. She was frequently at odds with her mother and had much grief when her mother was gone before she could really reconcile. It was enough perhaps to bring about this novel.

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