Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous 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.
The writing and description in this novel were compelling enough to keep me reading, despite the leisurely pace and Margot’s personality, which I didn’t care for at all. She was so hateful to her mother in her memories. Granted, Mina Lee wasn’t the most loving person, but she did manage to provide for her ungrateful daughter.
Being immersed in the culture of Koreatown was fascinating and complex, and I really enjoyed all the details. I felt so sorry for Mina Lee and everything she experienced, but Margot really made me dislike her, so it was hard to feel any sympathy for her.
Nancy Jooyoun Kim is from Los Angeles. The Last Story of Mina Lee is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)