THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE (on sale: September 1, 2020; Park Row Books; Hardcover; $27.99 US/ $34.99 CAN). opens when Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, doesn’t return her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous and 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.
Margot cannot get her mother to answer the phone. When she arrives at her mother’s home, she finds out why. Her mother has died and it literally takes Margot by complete surprise. She and her mother have a complex relationship. But, Margot is just not ready to survive in a world if her mother is not in it.
This story started out very well and then lost a little steam. I think it was because I did not like Margot. I found her demanding, rude and little mean to people, especially people trying to help her. She just rubbed me the wrong way. Usually this adds to the story but, for some reason, this was a complete turn off for me.
However, I enjoyed the mystery surrounding Margot’s parentage and what actually happened to her mother, in the past and the present. This is what actually kept me reading this story. There is a very unique storyline surrounding Mina.
I received this copy from the publisher for a honest review.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a graduate of UCLA and the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, The Offing, the blogs of Prairie Schooner and Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her essay, “Love (or Live Cargo),” was performed for NPR/PRI’s Selected Shorts in 2017 with stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Phil Klay, and Etgar Keret. THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE is her first novel.