DNF @ p. 282
I'm actually really upset about this book review because I was expecting to like it and spent all of what I read of it being totally unexcited. THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE kind of does for the Korean-American population in Los Angeles what JOY LUCK CLUB did for the Chinese-American population in San Francisco, in that it explores shared cultural history through the vehicle of a child's disconnect with her mother and then "reconnecting" them through their cultural history.
Unfortunately, for the heroine of this book, Margot, the chance to make amends is gone. The book opens with Margot finding out that her mother, Mina, has died of mysterious circumstances. Her mother fled Korea during the war, and has always been secretive (and very sad). As Margot looks into her mother's death, she finds out more than she ever could have dreamed about Mina's past loves and struggles, and how she fared as an immigrant in a country where she didn't initially speak the language.
I actually enjoyed the passages about Mina a lot. She's a sympathetic character with a kind of understated sense of humor, and her tragedies were upsetting and real. I liked the fusion of Korean-American and Latin-American cultures in Los Angeles (something the city is famous for) and its portrayal on the pages. Where the story flops is Margot, who is so passive and empty. She doesn't really have much characterization of her own: she's just the vehicle through which we discover Mina. And maybe that wouldn't be too bad if her POVs were few and far between, but they're not.
Some people might enjoy this book more than I did. To be clear, I took no issue with the rep, since that's not really anything I know too much about, and I enjoyed learning about Korean history and culture. It's the flat writing and the fact that one POV is significantly less interesting than the other that really made this a tough sell for me. I was going to try to push through the end but life's too short to read mediocre books and I found myself just pushing and pushing reading this off, so here we are.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
2 out of 5 stars