I Am My Mother’s Daughter.

Thoughts on reading Kyung-sook Shin’s literary prized novel “Please Look After Mom.”

Never had I cried that much reading a book. The first five or seven pages didn’t stir me, maybe because it started in a second-person narrative style; I was somewhat bored so I stopped and left it untouched for the next couple of days. Then the moment I resumed to reading it I wasn’t able to put it down and tears just kept on rolling down and wetting my shirt. After more than half through the book I felt the need to have a break and contain my tears – I was almost sobbing – and it’s hard to read when tears filled your eyes.

Kyung-sook Shin’s bestselling novel ‘Please Look After Mom’ is a story about a Korean family whose mother had gone missing. And as they searched for her, each family member reflected on their relationship with her and each of their moments with her. One truth this life offers – as a lot of people have proven – is that people often don’t know what they’ve got until it’s gone; and I think this is what Kyung-sook’s story is trying to impart: do we really need to lose someone to learn how important she/he is? There is really nothing so unusual with the whole story – I think all stories are extraordinary, even more so those that mirror reality; and I believe each one of us have an extraordinary story that is worth telling – but I definitely consider this a great read and I recommended, and still recommending it, to all my friends. Although I’m pretty sure not everyone would agree with my opinion, especially those who are not that close with their mothers, (theirs’ is another extraordinary story worth knowing.) But was being close to my own mother really enough for me to cry buckets of tears and give high praises to this book?

Although I’ve known that it’s the winner of the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize (beating Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84,) it was the title alone made me want to read it: Please Look After Mom – surely it’s about a mother. Of all the people I admire I put the mothers above all, I will always be in their defense. So any story that has to do with mothers is an interest to me… and they need not to make me cry. It was this interest that lured to resume reading the book after a few pages of feeling frigid and from then on, tears kept rolling down my ears (I was lying on my back as I read.) Without a doubt, the book will certainly make the readers reflect on their relationship with their mothers; though, for me, I wouldn’t say so. I lost mine thirteen years ago, and up to now there are still moments that I find myself crying just thinking of her. She was my best friend. And this book opened the floodgate of my memories of her. So why are there so much tears over a book?  Simply because… I am my mother’s daughter.

Book Highlights (as highlighted by me):

  • Either a mother and daughter know each other very well, or they are   strangers.
  • When you call out “Mom,” you want to believe that she’s healthy. That Mom is strong. That Mom isn’t fazed by anything. That Mom is the person you want to call whenever you despair about something in this city.
  • You don’t understand why it took you so long to realize something so obvious. To you, Mom was always Mom. It never occurred to you that she had once taken her first step, or had once been three or twelve or twenty years old. Mom was Mom. She was born as Mom. Until you saw her running to your uncle like that, it hadn’t occurred to you that she was a human being who harbored the exact same feeling you had for your own brothers, and this realization led you to the awareness that she, too, had had a childhood. From then on, you sometimes thought of Mom as a child, as a girl, as a young woman, as a newlywed, as a mother who had just given birth to you.
  • Instead of answering, you grabbed Mom’s hand, desperately, as if you were grasping for a lifeline in the darkness, because you didn’t know how to explain your emotions.
  • Most things in the world are not unexpected if one thinks carefully about them. Even something one would call unusual – if one thinks about it, it’s really just a thing that was supposed to happen. Encountering unusual events often means you didn’t think things through.
  • When was the last time you’d told Mom about something that had happened to you? At a certain point, the conversation between you and Mom became simplified. Even that was not done face to face, but by telephone.
  • “How can you live without trusting people? There are more people who are good than people who are bad!”
  • A house is such a strange thing. Everything else gets more worn when people handle it, and sometimes you can feel a person’s poison if you get too close to him, but that’s not what happens to a house. Even a good house falls apart quickly when nobody stops by. A house is alive only when there are people living in it, brushing against it, staying in it.
  •  A house takes on the characteristic of its occupant, and, depending on who lives in it, it can become a very good house or a very strange house.
  • Did Mom know? That I, too, needed her my entire life? If I can’t live like Mom, how could she have wanted to live like that?
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9 thoughts on “I Am My Mother’s Daughter.

  1. a post very impressive…I feel affinities with all written relating mother and life..I did talk a lot with my mother…I had always conscious of our relationship…in these last ten years our convivence was full of joy…she liked, she likes very much living…and a house turns a home if full of sentiment…a house one have as property…a home is a love expression…my warm regards for this post that I read with great sentiment and love…your writing is a fine writing…and I also feel that people should discover literature and uppermost writing…in this season of my life gradually I perceive that I write more than I read…on my own writing experience…I do talk with my mother even if in remebering her…I really continue our convivence as i continued with my father that passed on twelve years later…the long hospitalization of my mother I feel today as an effort of her and me to build a gradual last goodbye…in this dimension…Walter

  2. I was wondering whether you would be happy to put up a link in my monthly series called “Books You Love”. The idea is for people to link up posts about a book they loved. It could be an old fave. I am hoping we will end up with a nice collection of books that can go on our reading lists. Here is the link Books You Loved July Edition

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