Happy Tuesday all!
Happy birthday to this fabulous debut!🎉
An authentic and raw look at the life of an immigrant. A compelling debut packed with culture and secrets. Margot is first generation Korean American, She grew up in LA’s Koreatown. Margot was always a little embarrassed of and never fully understood her mother, so she went to college in Seattle and never looked back. Now she is home, her mother is gone, and Margot is learning that there was much more to her mother than she ever realized. Told from the alternating perspectives of Margot and her mother Mina. Not only do we watch Margo try to figure out what happened to her mom we are also privy to Mina’s life when she first arrives in the US from Korea. This really allows the reader to glimpse the full picture of this complicated mother daughter relationship. As well as a real look at the life of an immigrant. Greta Jung narrates the audiobook masterfully. She gave the perfect voice to both Margot and Mina and what I appreciated is I always knew which character was speaking. I also really appreciated both her Spanish and Korean pronunciation.
Nancy Jooyoun Kim grew up in Los Angeles and that as well as her Korean Heritage really shown through on these pages. I love seeing the diversity, especially the representation of the Asian and Latin cultures. This is the California I grew up in, I grew up in LA County in a neighborhood that was more white than this one but diverse none the same. So often this area is portrayed as this glitz and glamour place of privilege where the majority of Californians don’t live. The LA Mina lived in was broken and dirty, yet beautiful and diverse. I have to admit I enjoyed her parts of this book more than Margot’s. Mina was such a wonderful character! She was so strong, so resilient, so stoic, and yet she had a quiet sense of humor. I was humbled by how brave she was to uproot her life and move to a different country where she had no knowledge of language or culture. Her tenacity was admirable and she really made a good life for herself. What was unfortunate was that Margot never recognized it and part of that was on Mina there was so much she could have shared but didn’t. The mystery in the story was probably the weakest part of the book a lot of it depended upon coincidence. I think I would’ve liked more about Mina, more about her life in Korea and more about her life after her first year in America. A lovely story looking forward to what’s next from Mancy Jooyoun Kim.
This book in emojis 🍱 🍵 👗 🧸 🖼 🛒
*** Big thank you to Park Row & Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
About the Book
“Kim is a brilliant new voice in American fiction.” (Alexander Chee, best-selling author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel)
“Suspenseful and deeply felt.” (Chloe Benjamin, New York Times best-selling author of The Immortalists)
“Fans of Amy Tan and Kristin Hannah will love Kim’s brilliant debut.” (Booklist, starred review)
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 26-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.