The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim


This devastating and moving debut novel by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is the best book I’ve read so far this year. I could not put it down, and walked around in an emotional haze afterwards. The Last Story of Mina Lee begins with Margot, a young Korean-American woman who visits her childhood home in Los Angeles, and makes the horrific discovery that her mother has died there in suspicious circumstances. As Margot searches for answers about Mina’s death, she learns unexpected and shocking secrets about her mother’s past life in Korea, and the difficulties Mina had faced as an immigrant in 1980s America. The story is told from the perspectives of Margot in the present day, and Mina as a new arrival to America thirty years earlier, making the characters’ experiences of womanhood, identity, culture and family all the more immediate and affecting. Kim has combined the best elements of several genres – crime fiction, family saga, literary fiction, own voices – to create a powerful and unforgettable story that both thrilled and wrecked me. – Carla