PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOTHER is about So-nyo, a wife and mother, who has lived a life of sacrifice and compromise. A few years before the novel begins she suffered a stroke, leaving her vulnerable and often confused. Now, travelling from her home village in the countryside to the Seoul of her grown-up children, she is separated from her husband as the doors close on a packed train. Her children and husband desperately follow every lead but fail to find So-nyo, last seen wandering into the hustle-and-bustle of Seoul station. The novel is told from four different viewpoints, following So-nyo's husband and two of her children as they lash out at each then grow closer again, each confronting their indifference to So-nyo's pain and loneliness. We also hear the ghostly voice of So-nyo, looking back at her childhood and unfulfilled ambitions, and yearning to be with her own mother - putting herself before her husband and children even if only in death.
'A moving Korean novel questions the reliability of memory... Up to a point the novel plots South Korea's postwar growth against the death of its families in predictably allegorical ways...It is only in the moving chapter when Mother finally speaks for herself that her face suddenly swings into radiantly clear focus. The irony is that only Shin's readers get to see it.' -- MARGARET HILLENBRAND, Lec, Chinese Lit, Oxford Uni THE FINANCIAL TIMES - 16/4/11 'a captivating story, written with an understanding of the shortcomings of traditional ways and modern life. It is nostalgic but unsentimental, brutally well observed and, in this flawlessly smooth translation by Chi-Young Kim, it offers a sobering account of a vanished past... We must hope there are more translations to follow." TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT - 29/4/11 "An extraordinary novel about regret and our relations with those we love." -- Antonio Berardi, designer HARPERS BAZAAR - July 2011 "I'm an emotional wreck. Intensity is heartbreaking... far too traumatised to sleep last night! complex emotional tidal wave left me feeling exhausted! Swept me along... willing for good fortune + happy end. Final haunting pages will stay me forever. Beautifully written. Emotionally charged." -- Sandy Mahal, The Reading Agency @readwithsandy twitter feed "...The picture that emerges, of an unappreciated mother who sacrificed her life for her family, [may be] familiar... but the story somehow works, redeemed by the resolute So-nyo of the last chapters, a woman her husband and children never knew." -- Tina Jordan Entertainment Weekly "Questions punctuate [the] narrative and lead to a cascade of revelations, discoveries that come gradually... Shin's prose, intimate, and hauntingly spare, powerfully conveys grief's bewildering immediacy. And yet this book isn't as interested in emotional manipulation as it is in the invisible chasms that open up between people who know one another best... A raw tribute to the mysteries of motherhood." -- Mythili G. Rao The New York Times Book Review "Titles to Pick Up Now: This best-seller set in the author's native Korea examines a family's history through the story of the matriarch, mysteriously gone missing from a Seoul train sation." -- Karen Holt O, the Oprah Magazine "The universal resonance of family life lifts a novel rooted in the experience of Korean modernity to international success. A best-seller in her native South Korea, Shin's Please Look After Mom tells the story of Park So-nyo, a devoted, do-all wife and mother who mysteriously goes missing... the book-Shin's first to be translated into English- is a moving portrayal of the surprising nature, sudden sacrifices, and secret reveries of motherhood." -- Lisa Shea Elle "An enormous publishing success in South Korea, this simple portrait of a family shocked into acknowledging the strength and heroic self-sacrifice of the woman at its center is both universal and socially specific... Partly a metaphor for Korea's social shift from rural to urban, partly an elegy to the intensity of family bonds as constructed and maintained by self-denying women, this is tender writing." Kirkus Reviews "Indelible... Shin's breathtaking novel is an acute reminder of how easily a family can fracture, how little we truly know one another, and how desperate need can sometimes overshadow even the deepest love... Already a prominent writer in Korea, Shin makes her English-language debut with what will appeal to all readers who appreciate compelling, page-turning prose. Stay tuned: [Please Look After Mother] should be one of this year's most deserving bestsellers." -- Terry Hong Library Journal "Affecting... Poignant and psychologically revealing... Readers should find resonance in this family story, a runaway bestseller in Korea poised for a similar run here." Publishers Weekly '... the most moving and accomplished, and often startling, novel in translation I've read in many seasons.' WALL STREET JOURNAL -28.05.11 'what the characters and readers of... South Korean author Kyung-sook Shin discover is that in the mother's absence she is only more powerfully present.' REUTERS - 31.05.11
Shin Kyung-sook was born in a remote province of Korea to parents who worked the fields. She left school aged 16 and was sent to work at a factory in Seoul. Here she read books in secret under the conveyor belt and saved to enrol in evening classes. She made her debut as a writer at the age of 22 and has won every major Korean literary prize since. Combining huge critical and commercial success, she is a major literary figure in Korea, and a pioneer of fiction with a strong emotional undertow.