The reviewer is a bit superior towards South Korea, jibing that “Please Look After Mom”, “Sold more than a million copies in South Korea, where there may not be a dry hankie left in the land,” but with some slight demurrals seems to like the book.
The review begins with an amusingly dry synopsis:
The book is about the selfish family of Park So-nyo, a woman who got lost in the crowd at a train station in Seoul and has not reappeared. Shocked into decency, her husband, two sons and two daughters find themselves replaying all the button-pushing, tear-jerking moments that illustrated this woman’s love and devotion. It would be a grievous understatement to call her a mere martyr.
The reviewer also argues that the tone author Shin takes in some passages – essentially using her authorial position to browbeat some characters in order to pump up the sanctity of “mom” – may come across as grating, or too intrusive. This is not the only way in which Shin stacks the deck in favor of the mother; she makes the mother a cancer-sufferer, a volunteer at an orphanage, and almost inhumanly sacrificing. Shin also ends with a scene (added for English readers, I believe) set in Rome, which explicitly compares them other to a saint.
While Maslin notes all of these things because they bother her as a critic, she still concludes:
By the end of the book Ms. Shin has been canny enough to make even Mom feel pangs of tearful love for her own Mom. And she has turned the book’s title, which initially sounded like an order, into something much more powerful: a prayer.
LOL – you have to love that judgmental “canny” slipped in there. Still, another review that should drive more readers to the book.