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.
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 Man Asian Literary Prize, Asia’s most prestigious award for writers. Sweet vindication indeed.
Published: 2011 (United States)