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The Last Story of Mina Lee
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The Last Story of Mina Lee
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A REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICKINSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERRiveting and unconventional, The Last Story of Mina Lee traces the far-reaching consequences of secrets in the lives of a Korean immigrant...
A REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICKINSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERRiveting and unconventional, The Last Story of Mina Lee traces the far-reaching consequences of secrets in the lives of a Korean immigrant...
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  • A REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK
    INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
    Riveting and unconventional, The Last Story of Mina Lee traces the far-reaching consequences of secrets in the lives of a Korean immigrant mother and her daughter
    Margot Lee's mother is ignoring her calls. Margot can't understand why, until she makes a surprise trip home to Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. Determined to discover the truth, Margot unravels her single mother's past as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother, Mina.
    Thirty years earlier, Mina Lee steps off a plane to take a chance on a new life in America. Stacking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing she expects is to fall in love. But that moment leads to repercussions for Mina that echo through the decades, 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.
    HIGHLY ANTICIPATED BY FORTUNE · POPSUGAR · PUREWOW · BETCHES · GMA.COM · VULTURE · BUSTLE · THE MILLIONS · LITHUB · BOOKRIOT · BOOKISH
    "Painful, joyous... A story that cries out to be told." —Los Angeles Times
    "Kim is a brilliant new voice in American fiction." —Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
    "Suspenseful and deeply felt." —Chloe Benjamin, author of The Immortalists
 

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About the Author-

  • Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a graduate of UCLA and the University of Washington, Seattle. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, NPR/PRI's Selected Shorts, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Asian American Writers' Workshop's The Margins, The Offing, and elsewhere. The Last Story of Mina Lee is her first novel.

Reviews-

  • Booklist

    Starred review from May 15, 2020
    In Kim's haunting and heartbreaking debut, troubled threads between a mother and daughter blend together in a delicate and rich weave. In autumn, 2014, 26-year-old Margot Lee has been unable to reach her mother, Mina, who lives in L.A.'s Koreatown. With her best friend Miguel, Margot drives down from Seattle only to find Mina dead on the floor of her tiny apartment. A police investigation finds Mina's death to be an accident, but Margot is suspicious. As she goes through Mina's belongings, Margot discovers a mother she barely knew. Mina rarely spoke of her past, but as a child, she fled from North Korea during the Korean War before being permanently separated from her parents and growing up in an orphanage. Now, Margot learns that Mina lost a husband and daughter in an accident in 1986 before fleeing to the U.S. She began her American dream, which, as an undocumented immigrant and single mother, becomes tragic. Kim fluidly moves the story from 1987 to 2014 as readers learn Mina's backstory. With both sadness and beauty, she describes grief, regret, loss, and the feeling of being left behind. Fans of Amy Tan and Kristin Hannah will love Kim's brilliant debut.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 6, 2020
    In Kim’s uneven debut, an unexpected death highlights both the rifts and the bonds in a mother-daughter relationship. Margot Lee, 26, figures she’ll stop in for an overdue visit with her mother, Mina, while she’s in Los Angeles helping a coworker relocate from Seattle. At the house, she finds her mother dead. The death was ruled accidental, but the circumstances gradually appear more suspicious as Margot uncovers Mina’s mementos and learns about her mother’s secrets, both long-buried and more recent. Margot’s investigations alternate with (and in some cases, awkwardly parallel) the story of Mina’s 1987 arrival in Los Angeles’s Koreatown, having fled Korea in the wake of a personal tragedy. Mina’s immigration story poignantly mingles optimism with the heartbreak of exploitation. The more contemporary portions of the narrative, however, lack both emotional pull and narrative conviction. Margot’s characterization feels flat, and her supposed artistic aspirations lack any sort of passion or urgency. Most problematic, however, is the mystery plot, which hinges not only on a series of fairly implausible coincidences but also on some unconvincing police work. As a personal immigration narrative Kim’s novel largely succeeds, but as a mystery novel or a mother-daughter drama it fails to connect.

  • AudioFile Magazine Greta Jung's arresting narration elevates this suspenseful debut novel about an undocumented Korean immigrant who is hoping to fulfill the American dream. Margot and her mother, Mina, who doesn't speak English, have always had a strained relationship. When Margot finds that her mother has died under suspicious circumstances, she launches an investigation in hopes of finding out what happened. Voicing Mina's and Margot's perspectives, Jung capably does double duty by employing a singsong intonation. In particular, she effectively projects the confidence of the young, independent Margot. Although Jung provides little vocal differentiation, her accents are on point, especially as Mina tries to speak Spanish. This heartrending audiobook will linger in listeners' minds long after they finish it. A.C. � AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine

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