By Kyung-sook Chin
This damned book, man. I can’t even. I wept. I cried. I bawled. And because I read this while I was visiting Edinburgh back in May, I did all that in the middle of Potterrow. Would be hugely embarrassing if I had much shame.
PLAM was my introduction to my deep, long-standing love for South Korean women and their novels and way of writing, one that I just cannot wait to continue in 2018 and after. It centres on a 69 year old woman who is separated from her husband in Seoul’s train station, and the efforts of her husband and children to find her. The book is unique because it’s told almost entirely in the second person. The whole thing is by “you” and about “you”, and sometimes this can be confusing (which sibling is this now? who are we talking about?) but that just lends more beauty to the narrative because their lives, as all families lives are, are so integrated that you learn so much about the others from any one. And at the same time, which is the crux of the story, you know almost nothing. Because how much do we actually know about our moms?
The whole book is made of lyrical, beautiful quotes that are supposed to and absolutely succeed in making you feel just as fragile and vulnerable as the people in the book, who are lost, and desperate, and just want their mama.
I have so many dreams of my own, and I remember things from my childhood, from when I was a girl and a young woman, and I haven’t forgotten a thing. So why did we think of Mom as a mom from the very beginning? She didn’t have the opportunity to pursue her dreams, and all by herself, faced everything the era dealt her, poverty and sadness, and she couldn’t do anything about her very bad lot in life other than suffer through it and get beyond it and live her life to the very best of her ability, giving her body and her heart to it completely. Why did I never give a thought to Mom’s dreams?