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Please Look After Mom, a novel by Kyung-Sook Shin, is available in both English and Korean.
One of the most noteworthy novels among modern Korean literature, 엄마를 부탁해 (Please Look After Mom), has sold millions of copies and received worldwide attention. This책 (book) became the first Korean novel to make the New York Times 베스트셀러 (bestseller) list, was featured by Oprah Winfrey, has won several reputable awards, and was adapted as a 뮤지컬 (musical) and a 영화 (movie).
Sixty-nine year-old lady, So-Nyo is the main character of this novel. She and her husband, who are from the countryside, travel to Seoul to visit their children. She gets separated from her husband in a crowded subway station in Seoul, and this unexpected disappearance of So-Nyo traumatizes her husband and children. During the children’s desperate attempts at finding So-Nyo, they slowly discover their mother’s illness and some untold challenges in her life such as, against poverty, hardships with her in-laws, and child-rearing. Not only do they contemplate the various causes of her disappearance, but also their own relationships with their mother. They realize how much their mother’s life has been muted comparison to their lives, and the scarifies she made for her children’s wellbeing over hers. Do they ever find their mother? I will not give any spoilers for this novel…
One of the interesting characteristics of this novel is the shifting 시점 (points of view). Each of main sections is narrated by a different family members, and the author weighs in each individual’s remorse, nostalgia, and 갈등 (conflicts) in the 1인칭 (the first person), 2 인칭 (the second person), or 3인칭 (the third person) narration. The guilt and blame the characters feel shifts from themselves to one another in the author’s approach, helping readers to understand and identify it.
This is a scene from the musical 엄마를 부탁해.
You might think the 줄거리 (plot) of this book is heartbreaking and somewhat predictable, however, this book, 엄마를 부탁해, offers so much more. It allows you to experience traditional values of a typical middle class Korean family, such as individual roles within the family, the social structure shifting from rural to urban life, differences between older and younger generations, the love of family, and many different types of food and scenery in Korea. Furthermore, this novel will offer you an opportunity to think about your mom and the love of family. I hope you will enjoy reading this novel!
감사합니다! (Thank you!)