The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Nancy Jooyoun Kim comes to the blog with a lovely story of discovery and family with  

The Last Story of Mina Lee 

Mothers and daughters are always a storyline that intrigues. Add in the reluctance to talk about your past, immigration, assimilation and the natural conflict that enters the relationship as children seek their own pathways, and you have a story rife with secrets, mysteries and even regrets.  Such is the case with Margot and her Korean-born mother Mina.  It’s been a year since they spent time together, phone calls were getting more infrequent, and Margot decides that after several attempts, she needed to go to her mother’s house.  Finding Mina dead in her apartment leads to a whole series of guilts and conflicted feelings for Margot, many tinged with the frustrations and anger of so much lost and unknown.   

Contrasting Margot’s story in the present with her mother’s voice sharing her own struggles and fears about her new country, the new language, customs and her newborn daughter, we find  correlations and contrasts in the two stories, and questions that arise for Margot concerning her mother’s death. Secrets are uncovered, and Margot is, albeit too late, learning the ‘reasons’ behind some of her mother’s behaviors and concerns: concerns and behaviors that frustrated her and led to many fraught moments and their ultimate semi-estrangement.   

While not a perfectly balanced story as I found Mina’s moments more striking, the balance that Kim struck between the ‘Americanized’ version of Margot with the more ‘traditional’ Mina provided moments that sang, even as the mystery element wasn’t as well incorporated.  The prose is lovely, the issues are the same as any other mother-daughter relationship – with the added stressors of finding a way to hold on to what is important to your sense of self while still managing to function and assimilate into a place that is both very different and even seeks to ‘instill a sense of shame’ into the desire to hold on to your past.  From food and the comfort and familiarity it brings to the moments that are purely heartfelt and often heartbreaking, this was an interesting read that shows similarities, differences and common experiences for us all.  

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Title: The Last Story of Mina Lee
Author: Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Genre: Asian-American, Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Dual Narration, Family Saga, Grief, Korean, Mystery Elements
Published by: Park Row
ISBN: 0778310175
Published on: 1 September, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 384
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 44 minutes
Rated: four-stars
Get Your Copy: Amazon Barnes&Noble iTunes Kobo Downpour IndieBound GoogleAudibleDirect from Publisher
See this Title on Goodreads

A profoundly moving and unconventional mother-daughter saga, The Last Story of Mina Lee illustrates the devastating realities of being an immigrant in America.

Margot Lee's mother, Mina, isn't returning her calls. It's a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother's life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot's present-day search is Mina's story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she's barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, 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.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.



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