Margot’s mother isn’t answering her phone. Margot’s mother, even though she only has land lines and cell phone she doesn’t know how to work, always answers the phone. When Margot shows up to surprise her mother, she finds her mother dead. While cause of death is ruled an accident, Margot is determined to figure out the events leading up to her mother’s death and has learned that maybe she didn’t know her mother at all. Being a first generation American born, Margot has a hard time relating to her Korean immigrant mother and only realizes after her death that maybe that aren’t so different.
This book is told in a dual timeline and alternatives being Mina & Margot’s POV. I really enjoyed the extra level of mystery that this timeline added, as Mina’s takes place when she first arrived in American and Margot’s is present day (2014). The stark contract between the two characters is immense and getting to see what they’re versions of ‘The American Dream’ were was enlightening.
This is a debut novel and while it’s synopsis makes it sound more of a mystery (it does have a mystery aspect to it) it’s more of ‘learning about’ than a ‘discovering/unearthing’ type mystery. It’s also not you’re typically paced mystery book, because the story focuses on Mina and Margot’s relationship the most and the mystery is a subplot. I will say that I don’t normally enjoy character driven novels, but this one was just the right amount of character driven vs. plot based. The characters of both Mina and Margot are both so different but at the same time incredibly similar and I really loved getting to know both of them. Mina is resilient and has quite the sense of humor, though most people wouldn’t know it because she’s so quiet. Margot seems lost when we first meet her but as the story continues, but with a massive capacity to grow.
This book is a fabulous view into a complex mother-daughter relationship, which struggles with language and culture barriers. This complexity I found really unique but it a problem all to real for many immigrants and their children. The struggle to hold onto old tradition and yet the younger generation wanting to be more modern is a problem I think many cultures face, especially when immigrating to America.
I really enjoy this book. It is a slow burn and not something that would be considered page turning, such a thriller or a cute rom-com. This book needs to be slow though, in order to digest the information so I’m all for the slow pacing. I would have like a bit more about Mina after her first year in America and I would have enjoyed a bit more of a mystery plot line, however this book was still really great. I give it ★★★★ and really recommend for anyone looking for a solid literary fiction book.
This book comes out today, September 1st! Get it HERE!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on The Last Story of Mina Lee. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books. Huge Thank you to Park Row Books for my advanced copy.
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