Please Look After Mom, by Kyung-sook Shin, translated by Chi-Young Kim

The Korean title of this indelible novel, Omma rul put’ak hae, contains a sense of commanding trust that is missing in its English translation: “I entrust Mommy [to you].” That trust is irreparably splintered when ‘Mom’ disappears after becoming separated from her rushing husband on a busy Seoul Station platform. In four distinct voices, the character of Mom – a rural farmwoman whose “hands could nurture any life”– is reassembled by her eldest daughter, whose books Mom couldn’t read; her eldest son, for whom she could never do enough; her husband, who never slowed down; and finally Mom herself as she wanders through memories both strange and familiar.

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.

Verdict: Already a prominent writer in Korea, Shin finally makes her English-language debut with what will appeal to all readers who appreciate compelling, page-turning prose. Stay tuned: Mom should be one of this year’s most-deserving bestsellers.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, December 15, 2010

Tidbits: Wow, imagine my shock when handfuls of reader friends sent me this NPR review by Maureen Corrigan that aired April 5, 2011 [“kimchee-scented Kleenex fiction” – egads!]. Don’t miss the many comments. My Library Journal editor Barbara Hoffert indirectly came to Shin’s defense, not once but twice (and quoted me both times, aw shucks!) on April 21, 2011 and again on May 10, 2011. And, Mom did indeed (deservedly) hit all the bestseller lists, ahem!

And the very best tidbit of all: On March 15, 2012, Kyung-sook Shin became the first woman to win the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize, Asia’s most prestigious award for writers. Sweet vindication indeed.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2011 (United States)


Filed under ...Absolute Favorites, ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Translation, Korean

7 responses to “Please Look After Mom, by Kyung-sook Shin, translated by Chi-Young Kim

  1. Excellent, thanks for reminding me, can’t wait for this one! Sounds very interesting!

  2. jwc125

    hey guys, cool site. You should check out our interview with Shin Kyung-sook at We focus on Korean literature (modern, mostly) as well as other translation-related stuff. We also have an interview with Chi-Young Kim, who translated Please Look After Mom. :-)

  3. Pingback: I Have the Right to Destroy Myself by Young-ha Kim, translated by Chi-Young Kim | BookDragon

  4. Pingback: This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park | BookDragon

  5. Pingback: BookDragon Turns 3! « Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program Blog

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