Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I've read novels about missing children, who may or may not still be alive, and about dead parents, where the children express their many regrets about their relationships with the deceased.  This book has elements of both types, as it is about a missing parent/wife with dementia.  We glean a portrait of "Mom" from the viewpoints of her oldest son and daughter and from her husband, who bears the guilt for having lost track of his wife at busy Seoul Station.  The daughter's sections are in second person, which I found unnecessarily confusing.  I kept thinking that "you" was Mom, rather than the narrator, since the book is a collection of memories of Mom, peppered with apologies for not having valued her and with vows to show more affection and appreciation, if she ever turns up.  The only first-person section is where Mom gives us a glimpse of her life, sharing a few secrets that she's managed to keep hidden from her family.  It's not that her life has been one of pain and suffering, but with all these ingrates around, I found it uplifting to discover that she had a source of personal joy outside the family, as well as a younger daughter who treated her with the kindness she deserved.  Having no idea how expensive certain luxuries were, she had asked the younger daughter, a struggling mother herself, to buy her a mink coat.  (Asking her husband for one would have been an exercise in futility.)  The nearly destitute daughter bought the coat, and then Mom was mortified to learn how much it cost.  Mom is also illiterate and encouraged her children's education so that they could rise above her status in life, and they did.  However, they are not likely to match her generous spirit and the bountiful gifts that she has selflessly bestowed on them.

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