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The Last Story of Mina Lee

Written by: Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Narrated by: Greta Jung
Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
2.0 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A Reese’s Book Club Pick

Highly anticipated by Fortune · PopSugar · PureWow · The Millions · LitHub · Vulture

"Painful, joyous... A story that cries out to be told." (Los Angeles Times)

"Kim is a brilliant new voice in American fiction." (Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel)

"Suspenseful and deeply felt." (Chloe Benjamin, author of The Immortalists)

A profoundly moving and unconventional mother-daughter saga, The Last Story of Mina Lee illustrates the devastating realities of being an immigrant in America.

Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to 26-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.

Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.

©2020 Nancy Jooyoun Kim (P)2020 Harlequin Enterprises, Limited

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What listeners say about The Last Story of Mina Lee

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-09-02

Audio Recording Terrible, distracting

The book is good but read it on paper. The voice for the audiobook is so robotic and distracting I can barely get through the book. I actually do wonder if it’s a robot/AI narrorator....

8 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • MTrean
  • 2020-09-07

Robotic Narrator

The narration is so terrible I couldn’t finish it. I’ll order the book and read it to finish.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Victoria L.
  • 2020-09-07

Narration is so important.

I think this is a great book, but the narrator IMO is terrible. So bad it interferes with the story.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Tracey
  • 2020-09-13

First time I’ve doubted Reese’s book club choice...

Therefore I have to assume it’s a good read, NOT a good listen. The narration is horrific! It’s distracts so badly from the story, I can’t listen. I will be asking for a refund and might buy the book, although, if I had time to sit down and read, I wouldn’t need audible. I don’t want the book to get a bad review but with this narration, I’ll never know if it’s worthy of more.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mary Aalgaard
  • 2020-09-22

Drama with mystery and heartache

I liked the perspective and storytelling of Kim's novel. The premise is compelling. Margot hasn't heard from her mom in a while, so she travels from her home in Seattle to L.A. to check on her. When she finds her lying lifeless on her living room floor, she sets out to discover what happened. Along the way, she learns more about her mother than she ever knew, or suspected. Kim switches from present day with Margot's POV, to Mina's story in flashback chapters. I find this type of story a bit frustrating. Secrets are harmful, and when they're discovered after any explanation or reconciliation can happen, it makes for a sad story. Margot's reaction to what really happened to her mom is too quickly forgiven. Greta Jung did a good job with the characters and their voices and accents. The narration was choppy and slow which made it a little distracting. Still, it was a good book, giving perspective on immigrant life from people from Korea, its hardships and cruelty.

1 person found this helpful

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  • A. H.
  • 2020-09-25

Interesting, but not sure I'd recommend

***Spoiler alert*** The story itself was interesting to hear about the struggles of a Korean immigrant, yet some parts left me disappointed in how the characters were a bit underdeveloped. I felt like it was really strange how the daughter didn't seem all that upset over her mom's death and was willing to forgive so easily. On top of this, even though it was narrated by a seemingly native English speaker, the cadence was really weird in some lines. In some cases, it was hard to follow because of the inflections. All in all, it was a decent story, but hard to swallow the audiobook price with poor narration.

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  • Heather Czartoski
  • 2020-09-24

😩

Nothing intriguing here. This could have been condensed into one chapter. This was a waste of money

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  • Boomer
  • 2020-09-24

Good story

The story was good and I loved the details about life in Koreatown, food etc. The narration was a bit slow but otherwise good.

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  • Patricia H King
  • 2020-09-20

Great story, terrible narration.

Story was very heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. The narration was choppy, stilted and did not flow well at all. It was distracting and at times took away from the story.

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  • Barbara S
  • 2020-09-19

Interesting story of a Korean immigrant

“The Last Story of Mina Lee” is another daughter/mother immigrant story in which the daughter woefully misunderstood her mother. The story is character-driven with Margo, Mina’s daughter, and Mina tell their stories through their own chapters. Margo begins the story in real time. She makes an unexpected trip to visit her mother and finds Mina dead in her Koreatown apartment in Los Angeles. Mina’s chapters are the backstory of Mina and how she came to Koreatown, her life in Koreatown, and her life prior to coming to America. Author Nancy Jooyoun Kim stated in an interview that she wanted to write a “different” sort of immigrant novel, one in which she explores the complicated interdependence between an immigrant mother and her American-born daughter, “ways in which they love, need, and sometimes resent each other,” Through their own chapters, Mina and Margo explain their feelings, reactions, motives to their relationship. All mother/daughter relations are fraught with drama and angst. Add to that cultural differences, language barriers, and different expectations, you get a very complicated dynamic. I enjoyed Mina’s chapters. I found her experiences coming from the ravaged Korean conflict to be amazing. Poor Mina lost her parents when fleeing North Korea to get to South Korea. She grew up in an unloving orphanage yet found a life as an adult in South Korea. Tragedy struck Mina once again, motivating her to try her life in the USA. As a non-English speaker, we feel and learn what struggles Mina endured. Meanwhile, Margo, who grew up oblivious to Mina’s past, came to detest everything about Mina’s life; poverty, submissiveness, fear. But after finding her mother dead, Margo wants to determine how her mother died, and she eventually becomes curious about Mina’s history. That is the crux of the storyline. Margo slowly learns of her mother’s fraught past. The reader learns it more intimately through Mina’s eyes. For me, the reason to read this story is to “feel” the scary life of a single immigrant woman. I shall look at elderly immigrant woman differently after reading this. I listened to the audio production narrated by Greta Jung. I am not a fan of Jung’s performance. I almost quit at the beginning because I didn’t like her dramatic interpretations. Mina’s story, however, kept me compelled.