Inspired by the life of his own mother – and roughly based on written accounts and anecdotes that she provided about her life and that of her peers – Yeong-Shin Ma's Moms is a strikingly empathic and highly engaging account of the lives of a group of 50-something Korean working women. In its 368 pages readers will experience the ups and downs of their loves, marriages and affairs (of which there are plenty) – including various intimate details – on the one hand, and their unrelenting working lives on the other. Scattered inbetween are child-rearing – with a focus on the stay-at-home son that is the stand-in for the author – and other famiy matters, like funerals. Through it all, there is the bond that the moms share with each other. It is this, perhaps more than anything else, that keeps them all going.
And while the particulars of these women's lives will provide readers with insights into Korean life and culture – which is, if anything, even more patricarchal and paternalistic than that of the USA – there is a clear universailty at the core of the stories and of the work as a whole.