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Old 02-13-2018, 01:34 PM   #1
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Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin

'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?'

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This is the MR Literary Club selection for February 2018. Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time, and guests are always welcome! So, what are your thoughts on it?

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Old 02-23-2018, 10:42 PM   #2
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This is a tangent, but the e-book starts off with the separately-styled opening text of 'It's been one week' before continuing in the normal text style. I couldn't help but have this pop into my mind.
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Old 02-24-2018, 12:32 AM   #3
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I’m just starting this book tonight, looking forward to it, as it seems so different from my usual books.
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Old 02-24-2018, 12:47 AM   #4
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It is different. I finished this week and now I'm thinking about it. One thing that I did was go back and re-read the first chapter (daughter's view) before I read the mom's chapter. By re-reading I picked up so many little details that I missed as significant on the first read. It's odd to describe but this book keeps building in intensity (like a crescendo in music) so that it grabs you more than you expected. I think it's because each chapter keeps building more details on events as they are told from another perspective so the layers are combining into the complete picture. I plan to post more thoughts over the weekend.
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Old 02-24-2018, 03:39 PM   #5
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When you are done sun surfer, I will be interested to hear what you thought about the different points of view and how the use of first/second/third-person impacted the reader. I think you brought this up after you read a sample during voting. Of course I'm interested to hear what anyone else thought about this writing technique too!
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Old 03-03-2018, 06:38 AM   #6
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Quite an interesting read - but difficult too.... made me think of my own relationship with my mother. Kids being too busy to really visit, impatient at times etc, and mother treating her kids like the persons they were when they lived at home, not realizing everyone changes.
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Old 03-03-2018, 01:48 PM   #7
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June, I agree. The book also made me think of my relationship with my mother and experienced a little of that same mom-guilt that the children were feeling.

I was curious about some of the traditions that were mentioned in the book and other details about daily life. For example, buying a gift for your parents from your first paycheck. I found this great Korean Culture Blog.
https://koreancultureblog.com/blog/

Quote:
Red colour

If you want to write a card to someone, you should not use the red ink, especially when writing the recipient’s name. It is because Koreans write names of the dead using red ink which is never used to write a living person’s name. As an extension, red ink is not used to write cards as well.

Although red ink is forbidden, there is one type of gift that should be red – underwear for parents! When a Korean receives the first pay check from his/her first job, he/she buys red ‘long johns’ as gifts for his/her parents. Some people may buy other types of underwear such as bras, boxers or panties. Red underwear is considered as a good gift for parents to express filial affection because in the past, Koreans wore long johns to keep warm and believed that red underwear could bring good luck. Such belief continues even nowadays and red underwear is used to bring good luck in other areas as well. For example, you may find plenty of red underwear on sale during the grand opening of a department store. In 2009 when there was flu scare in South Korea, the sales of red underwear shot up as people bought red underwear to to bring them good luck and protect them from catching cold.

In the cold winter, you may also consider buying yourself red underwear to bring good luck and health!

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Old 03-04-2018, 01:45 PM   #8
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I've passed the first point-of-view switch, from the I-am-the-daughter to the older son. It makes the more normal omniscient narrative of the older son feel more removed after the former. I'm well into the older son's story now and it settles into a closer feeling after awhile but I was surprised by how distant it felt at first.
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Old 03-05-2018, 09:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sun surfer View Post
I've passed the first point-of-view switch, from the I-am-the-daughter to the older son. It makes the more normal omniscient narrative of the older son feel more removed after the former. I'm well into the older son's story now and it settles into a closer feeling after awhile but I was surprised by how distant it felt at first.
I am in the same place. I am enjoying the different points of view.
Something that rang particularly true for me was the way that Chi-Hon describes realizing that her mother had a separate existence - as a child, as a young woman ...
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Old 03-05-2018, 10:55 PM   #10
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That moment you realize your parents are humans too with separate lives and hopes and dreams! I often wonder now what does my mom think when she looks back on her life. Were the sacrifices worth it? Does she have many regrets? Of course, I shouldn't wonder. I should ask! She got pushed into a career that she didn't really want because her mother was adamant that there were only a handful of options that were acceptable for a woman at the time (besides being a full-time mom and domestic).

Here were two quotes that I saved on that theme that really got to me.

Quote:
You realized, Oh, Mom has a brother, too! Sometimes you laughed to yourself when you remembered what your mom was like that day, your aging mom jumping down from the porch and running across the yard to your uncle, shouting “Brother!” as if she were a child—Mom acting like a girl even younger than you. That mom was stuck in your head. It made you think, even Mom ... 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.
Quote:
Remember how much we ate? We had two small tables filled with food. Remember how big our rice pot was? And she had to pack all of our lunches, including the side dishes she made with whatever she could get in the countryside.... How did Mom get through it every day? Since Father was the eldest, there was always a relative or two staying with us. I don’t think Mom could have liked being in the kitchen at all.” You were caught off guard. You had never thought of Mom as separate from the kitchen. Mom was the kitchen and the kitchen was Mom. You never wondered, Did Mom like being in the kitchen?
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Old 03-08-2018, 07:27 AM   #11
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It’s a novel that takes me well out of my comfort zone. The first person perspective of the self as an external character feels very awkward to me but as a literary technique it is extremely effective as a way to gauge the growth or absence of such in the characters.

The final section has a spirituality that is sometimes quite moving—though I cannot help wondering how such unpleasant children created such selfless love in their mother.
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Old 03-08-2018, 08:17 PM   #12
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I loved this line - "He thought he had to become a prosecutor to keep Mom at home". Her prose is so economical in places.
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Old 03-09-2018, 07:37 PM   #13
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Just starting to read the father's story - the character who has hitherto been present only in his absence. The author does a great job here in describing remorse.
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Old 03-13-2018, 09:34 PM   #14
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There's a song this book reminds me of. It's called The Way by Fastball, a pop song from the '90s based on a real incident. The premise is of an older middle-aged married couple who both have slowly advancing dementia. One summer day they wake up and leave in their car and are never heard from again. The adult children alert the police and the older couple's car is found far away, abandoned on the side of a highway. The song wonders 'Where were they going without ever knowing the way?' and surmises that

Quote:
Anyone can see the road that they walk on
Is paved in gold
And it's always summer
They'll never get cold
They'll never get hungry
They'll never get old and grey
You can see their shadows wandering off somewhere
They won't make it home
But they really don't care
They wanted the highway
They're happier there today, today
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Old 03-15-2018, 11:24 PM   #15
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On a coincidentally related note, the body of a Japanese Nobel prize winner's wife was found in a car at a landfill in Indiana, and her husband was found wandering along a road, all after the couple being reported missing earlier in the week. The wife was reported as being near the end of her battle with Parkinson's, and their family 'believed the couple had been trying to find their way to the airport and got "disoriented" along the way'.

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