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The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Contemporary fiction

The Last Story of Mina Lee


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Nancy Jooyoun Kim, on your first book!

by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Quick take

A story to fill the generational gap between mothers and daughters, sprinkled with mystery, self-discovery, and love.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Inspirational


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MamaDrama

    Mama drama


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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Last Story of Mina Lee.

Why I love it

As a daughter of immigrants, I am drawn to stories that paint a picture of what it means to be American from a perspective that is often untold. The Last Story of Mina Lee does just that, grappling beautifully with themes of identity, class, race, gender, and what it truly means to belong. I finished the novel in one sitting (and may or may not have wept through some of it). It’s one of those stories that grabs you from the first line and stays with you long after you turned the last page.

It starts with a gripping discovery: Margot Lee returns to her childhood apartment in Koreatown, Los Angeles, to find that her mother Mina has mysteriously died. On a quest to learn the truth about her mother’s death, Margot digs into Mina’s past as an orphan of the Korean War and an undocumented immigrant. Gradually, she learns that the woman she called mom contained multitudes.

A vivid examination of immigration and belonging, this moving debut tells two stories in parallel—Margot’s present-day discovery of her dead mother in 2014 and Mina Lee’s arrival to the United States in 1987. An emotional mother-daughter story wrapped up in a poignant mystery, this book is an unforgettable reading experience.

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Member ratings (11,748)

  • Ismerai E.

    Channelview, TX

    I enjoyed reading each character’s experience. I’m glad we got to know more about Mina’s life before her daughter and her experience coming to the U.S. because that’s a story we don’t hear often.

  • Randi D.

    New Albany, OH

    As someone with a strained relationship with their mother, this book’s synopsis intrigued me. A truly beautiful story of love, loss, and understanding that I couldn’t put down. I finished in 24 hours.

  • Jesse C.

    Dallas, TX

    Went out of my thriller comfort zone and was pleasantly surprised! I loved reading Mina’s chapters and hearing about her life and reading about how Margot grew to appreciate her mom and Korean culture

  • Jamie B.

    Washington, MO

    A beautiful and heartbreaking mother/daughter story. Told from both perspectives, the mother’s past is unfolded as her daughter tries to finally understand the mother she never really knew. Must read.

  • Cinderella B.

    Woodside, NY

    This was so beautifully written and I was deeply moved by the story and its characters. Everyone needs to read it as it’s perfect in understanding and empathizing with another’s arduous experience.