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Riveting and unconventional, The Last Story of Mina Lee traces the far-reaching consequences of secrets in the lives of a Korean immigrant mother and her daughter
Margot Lee's mother is ignoring her calls. Margot can’t understand why, until she makes a surprise trip home to Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. Determined to discover the truth, Margot unravels her single mother’s past as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother, Mina.
Thirty years earlier, Mina Lee steps off a plane to take a chance on a new life in America. Stacking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing she expects is to fall in love. But that moment leads to repercussions for Mina that echo through the decades, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.
Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.
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“Painful, joyous... A story that cries out to be told.” —Los Angeles Times
“Kim is a brilliant new voice in American fiction.” —Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
“Suspenseful and deeply felt.” —Chloe Benjamin, author of The Immortalists
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Nancy Jooyoun Kim’s elegant and deeply felt debut explores the diverse Korean immigrant experience in Los Angeles—and the complicated, elemental connection between a mother and daughter. When Margot returns to be L.A. after an extended absence, she discovers her mother Mina has been murdered, and she’s drawn into a perilous investigation that puts Mina’s and Margot’s difficult lives in America under a microscope. Kim is an astute, generous storyteller, and she weaves the two women’s divergent, sometimes contradictory narratives into an exceptionally gratifying whole. The Last Story of Mina Lee is a gripping read about a mother’s long-held secrets and a daughter’s quest to finally grasp her own tangled history.
It was okay. I felt like it wanted to be more than it was.
For me it wasn’t until towards the end of the book that I really got drawn in. And at the point, the story started to feel a bit far fetched. Although, I loved how the book shared the stories of several people who immigrated, making a life for themselves in America. There’s such rich pasts and unique challenges in the new land. It’s clever the way the book was written from the perspectives of both the mother and American-born daughter. Korean food mentions were weaved throughout the book, so if you’re familiar with that cuisine, I imagine you’d get and appreciate those references.
Mother-Daughter, unspoken connection
This book really meant a lot to me. It’s exploration of a complex, mother-daughter relationship was healing and thought provoking. It was beautifully written and I loved how the mother’s story and her daughters intertwined and supported each other, even after death. I would recommend this book to anyone. It’s a story of a young women learning who she is while learning about her mothers past, but also a murder mystery that leaves you wanting answers.