The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim (Review by Marie Nguyen)

1 min read

Rating: 3 / 5

Margot Lee finds out that her mother, Mina, died suspiciously in her childhood apartment in the beginning of The Last Story of Mina Lee. The book follows Margot in the present day as she digs into her mother’s past. Having established a somewhat unsatisfactory life in Seattle, we find out that there is an incredible amount of history that Margot never knew about her mother in Los Angeles. We also get Mina’s perspective starting from when she first arrives in the United States from Korea, as she navigates life in Los Angeles after immigrating completely alone, to shortly before her death. There is a bit of suspense intertwined with romance along with tragic family history.

I really enjoyed reading the portions of the book from Mina’s perspective. Her struggles really hit the truth of so many immigrant stories. These parts felt especially real and heartbreaking. While her story is a bit of a tragic one, there were moments of happiness and love. I also started craving Korean food after all the amazing descriptions. I had much higher hopes for this book though, as a first generation born American myself, I thought that I would relate to Margot a lot more. The story told from Margot’s perspective completely dragged in comparison to Mina’s – I think it was either the pacing or lack of character development. Margot was an extremely frustrating character. It took me a lot longer to finish this book than I anticipated and I somewhat wished a bit more time was spent on Mina’s story. I’d still recommend this book though to anyone looking to gain an understanding of the undocumented immigrant story and the trials that are all too common for Korean families.

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