The Last Story of Mina Lee #BookReview

Nancy Jooyoun Kim| Sept 2020 | 384 pp

This was a bit of a slow read, but good mother/daughter story about what it means to be an immigrant, culture, love, and friendship.

Margot, the daughter, 25’ish, hasn’t heard from her loving but, nagging, mother in days. She’s not answering her phone and Margot knows something is wrong. She’s planning on driving to Koreatown in Los Angles with a male friend to check on her. Once they arrive they find mom, Mina, dead on the floor. Hesitantly, they call the police (alluding to but, never exploring problematic policing of immigrant neighborhoods) and eventually the death is ruled an accident. After speaking with the landlord, Margot isnt convinced. In a offhanded conversation, he claims to have heard screaming in the apartment on the fateful night Mina died and says that was very irregular for her. He later recants the story saying that he doesn’t want any trouble at his place. Margot keeps investigating and starts to uncover her mothers backstory.

Pros: The story is narrated by both Margot and Mina. Mina, going back in time telling us her story of how she arrived in America from Korea and how she came to meet some of the people in her life and maybe why, to Margots dismay, she’s so married to the old neighborhood and her small business. Some of the details speak to questions Margot has about her mother and decisions she’s made over time.

From Margot, we watch her attempt to solve her mothers possible murder. She finds it hard to believe murder could be the case because her mother was a ‘nobody’ but, she starts to change her mind about her mother as she discovers her story.

Cons: It starts slow and Margot, initially, isn’t very likable. Margot is embarrassed of her mom and thier humble beginnings. Through Margots eyes, Mina isnt very likable! But, stick with it. They’ll both grow on you!

Admittedly, the ending is anti-climatic but, I let that slide because I dont think how Mina dies is as important as that she dies. Once Mina is gone, Margot learns to appreciate her and seeks out her story. Learning to love and respect her through her story. Don’t be Margot! Respect and learn your parents story while you have them!

Definitely a good book with lots of Korean culture sprinkled in to make it interesting. Enjoy! Goodbook 24/2021

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