The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim Book Review

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The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim Book Review


When my father was a toddler, he was adopted from an orphanage in Korea by an American couple. Whereas we have not been capable of monitor down the id of his organic Korean mom (his father was an American soldier), we do know that for causes we might by no means totally perceive, she gave him up for adoption to have an opportunity at a greater life, a life she did not suppose she’d ever be capable to give him. It is a sacrifice I am unable to even start to grasp making.

“What did this nation ask us all to sacrifice? Was it doable to really feel something whereas we had been all attempting to get forward of everybody else, together with our self?”

My story just isn’t similar to that of 20-something Margot Lee in Nancy Jooyoun Kim’s debut novel, The Last Story of Mina Lee, and that is sort of the purpose. We’re the identical, however totally different. These of us dwelling in the US whose ancestors who got here from different international locations (and only a reminder, that is rather a lot of us) have our personal distinctive tales of ache, loss, threat, hope, luck, and love which have led us to the place we at the moment are on this “land of the free and the house of the courageous.” However many of us can relate to Kim’s recurring theme of the wrestle, sacrifice, and bravado of immigrants coming to America for an opportunity at a greater life.

I used to be struck by a second within the ebook when Margot contemplates the distinction between the true nature of Koreans dwelling in Korea vs. the one model of her ancestors she’s seen, “immigrants hardened by the realities of dwelling in another country.” Kim writes:

“What did this nation ask us all to sacrifice? Was it doable to really feel something whereas we had been all attempting to get forward of everybody else, together with our self?”

Set in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, The Last Story of Mina Lee alternates between the late ’80s and 2014 from the views of Margot and her mother Mina. We study immediately that Mina has mysteriously died, and as Margot items collectively the occasions that led to her dying, she uncovers particulars about her mother’s life that she by no means knew. It is each a heartbreaking story of a fractured mother-daughter relationship minimize brief and a devastating take a look at the realities of being an immigrant in America.

By the alternating views, we’re capable of see how the language barrier between Margot and Mina is a roadblock to their relationship, each of them so comparable of their stubbornness: Margot, refusing to study Korean as she associates it with the disgrace of her poor upbringing, and Mina, refusing to study English in her older age for sensible causes (what is the level, when the one English-speaking individual she interacts with is Mina?) and emotions of embarrassment. Mina desires to guard Margot from studying about her painful background, which additionally retains them from really opening up to one another and recognizing they are not that totally different in any case. At one level, Margot remembers her mother giving her a shower when she is younger, and when she asks her about her dad, her mother breaks her usually composed demeanor with an sudden tearful response. Kim writes:

“In these uncommon moments of nice tenderness and fragility, their sanity rattling like glass cups in a cabinet throughout a quake, Margot discovered that households had been our biggest supply of ache, whether or not they had misplaced or deserted us, or just scrubbed our heads.”

“In these uncommon moments of nice tenderness and fragility, their sanity rattling like glass cups in a cabinet throughout a quake, Margot discovered that households had been our biggest supply of ache, whether or not they had misplaced or deserted us, or just scrubbed our heads.”

As a reader, you’ll be able to witness the deep love and but all-too-relatable frustrations of a mother-daughter relationship: the push and pull of wanting area but wanting closeness, wanting to guard somebody you like from harsh truths but eager to be totally seen and understood. It makes it all of the extra gut-wrenching to know that there cannot be a decision, that they’re going to by no means be capable to say the issues they saved which means to say.

Whereas the novel’s tone is usually gentle (albeit emotional) all through, there is a heavy weight to the subject material. Even in case you do not relate to the harrowing plight of the Korean and Latinx immigrants within the story, who amongst us does not know the emotions of guilt and loss when a liked one is taken from us earlier than we might restore what’s damaged or totally expose our vulnerabilities and share our true selves?

Its relatability apart, The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim ($20) is a well timed, vital novel this election season, and I like to recommend you give it a learn. Take a look at extra new September ebook releases right here.

The Candy Spot

Followers of Celeste Ng will not be capable to put down this heartfelt, cross-generational novel in regards to the highly effective bond and fragility of household and what it actually means to try for the “American dream.”



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