Please Look After Mom

Publisher: Vintage Canada
You will never think of your mother the same way after you read this book.

Already an international sensation and a bestseller that has sold over 1.5 million copies in the author's native Korea, Please Look After Mom is a stunning, deeply moving story of a family's search for their missing mother — and their discovery of the desires, heartaches and secrets they never realized she harbored within.

When sixty-nine-year-old So-nyo is separated from her husband among the crowds of the Seoul subway station, and vanishes, their children are consumed with loud recriminations, and are awash in sorrow and guilt. As they argue over the "Missing" flyers they are posting throughout the city — how large of a reward to offer, the best way to phrase the text — they realize that none of them have a recent photograph of Mom. Soon a larger question emerges: do they really know the woman they called Mom?

Told by the alternating voices of Mom's daughter, son, her husband and, in the shattering conclusion, by Mom herself, the novel pieces together, Rashomon-style, a life that appears ordinary but is anything but.

This is a mystery of one mother that reveals itself to be the mystery of all our mothers: about her triumphs and disappointments and about who she is on her own terms, separate from who she is to her family. If you have ever been a daughter, a son, a husband or a mother, Please Look After Mom is a revelation — one that will bring tears to your eyes.

From the Hardcover edition.



Nobody Knows

It’s been one week since Mom went missing.

The family is gathered at your eldest brother Hyong-chol’s house, bouncing ideas off each other. You decide to make flyers and hand them out where Mom was last seen. The first thing to do, everyone agrees, is to draft a flyer. Of...

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1. While second-person (“you”) narration is an uncommon mode, it is used throughout the novel’s first section (the tale of the daughter, Chi-hon) and third section (the tale of the husband). What is the effect of this choice? How does it reflect these characters’ feelings about Mom? Why do you...

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“Shin’s prose, intimate and hauntingly spare . . . powerfully conveys grief’s bewildering immediacy. . . . Who is the missing woman? In this raw tribute to the mysteries of motherhood, only Mom knows.”
— The New York Times
“A suspenseful, haunting, achingly lovely novel about the hidden lives, wishes, struggles and dreams of those we think we know best. . . . Just like family, this novel also delivers ultimate gifts: moments of gorgeous lucidity, love that knows no depth, beauty in the details of many long-held memories.”
— The Seattle Times
“Haunting. . . . Fervent . . . but also sinuous and elusive. . . . Details, unembellished and unsentimental, are the individual cells that form this novel’s beating heart. . . . The novel’s language—so formal in its simplicity—bestows a grace and solemnity on childhood scenes. . . . With each description, the relentless tide of the past erodes the yielding ground of the present to reveal the contours of one woman’s life.”
— The Boston Globe
"Please Look After Mom is an authentic, moving story that brings to vivid life the deep connections that lie at the core of Korean culture. But it also speaks beautifully to an urgent issue of our time: migration, and how the movement of people from small towns and villages to big cities can cause heartbreak and even tragedy. This is a tapestry of family life that will be read all over the world. I loved this book."
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

"Suspenseful and moving… Cleverly structured and brimming with secrets and revelations, Please Look After Mom is a powerful and memorable read."
—Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory and Brother, I'm Dying

"Kyung-sook Shin has managed some kind of alchemy in this novel. Weaving together four vivid voices - of daughter, son, husband and mother, each with the immediacy of a whispered confession - she has created a heartbreaking family mystery. Here is a deeply felt journey into a culture foreign to many - yet with a theme that is universal in its appeal. A terrific novel that stayed with me long after I'd finished its final, haunting pages. This is a real discovery."
—Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

"Direct and affecting… An intimate window into the history and custom of the country."
—Janice Y. K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher

From the Hardcover edition.