The Last Story of Mina Lee

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
The Last Story of Mina Lee Book Poster Image
Heartbreaking mother-daughter tale has lots of violence.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about Korean culture and what it's like to be an undocumented immigrant in America. There are Korean and Spanish words and phrases included throughout the book.

Positive Messages

Forgiveness, communication, and perseverance are important themes. Never give up on family. A lot of the story focuses on the economic disadvantages that immigrants have in America. 

Positive Role Models

These characters are strong, hardworking, brave, resilient, and they care for each other despite their flaws. In terms of representation, the story includes one gay character as well as Korean, Korean American, and Latinx characters.

Violence

Mina is found dead on the floor of her apartment. She was separated from her parents when they fled North Korea and often has suicidal thoughts after her husband and daughter died in a tragic accident. Margot thinks that someone tried to poison her. One character reveals that she had an abusive husband and is currently dealing with a stalker. There's also a scene of an attempted rape, which ends in a fistfight. A character flashes his gun and is later found dead. Some cruel, racist comments.

Sex

Characters kiss, have sex, and it's later revealed that they are having an affair. Margot finds a condom wrapper in her mom's room. 

Language

Strong language includes variations of "s--t", "f--k," "bitch," "ass," "oh my god," "goddamn," and "idiot."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

After Mina's husband and daughter died, she often drank until she passed out and woke with hangovers. There are mentions of soju, smoking, cigars, cigarettes, acid, and whiskey.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nancy Jooyoun Kim's The Last Story of Mina Lee is a heartbreaking but slow-paced tale about 26-year-old Margot Lee and her mom, Mina Lee. Margot finds Mina dead on the floor of their apartment in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Mina was separated from her parents when they fled North Korea and often has suicidal thoughts. One character reveals that she had an abusive husband and is currently dealing with a stalker. There's also an attempted rape scene, which ends in a fistfight. A character flashes his gun and is later found dead. Someone tells Mina to "Go back to Chinatown, bitch." Characters kiss, have sex, and it's later revealed that they're having an affair. Margot finds a condom wrapper in her mom's room. Strong language includes variations of "s--t", "f--k," "bitch," "ass," "oh my god," "goddamn," and "idiot." A lot of the story focuses on the economic disadvantages that immigrants have in America. After Mina's husband and daughter died, she often drank until she passed out and woke with hangovers. There are mentions of soju, smoking, cigars, cigarettes, acid, and whiskey.

User Reviews

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Adult Written bysleeson January 8, 2021

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What's the story?

Twenty-six-year-old Margot hasn't heard from her mom, Mina, in weeks. When she returns to her childhood home in Los Angeles' Koreatown, she discovers that Mina has mysteriously died. Although the police ruled Mina's death an accident, Margot suspects someone else was involved as details and secrets from Mina's past emerge. She might not have known much about her mom while she was alive, but can she solve THE LAST STORY OF MINA LEE?

Is it any good?

Nancy Jooyun Kim's heartbreaking tale explores mother-daughter relationships, grief, and the realities of being an immigrant in America. Readers will be captivated by the flashback chapters about Mina, as they learn about her struggles adjusting to life in America, her tragic love story, and the pain and loneliness she's endured throughout the years. Although the writing is often poetic and vividly describes Korean culture, many of the passages are repetitive, making the book move slowly before ending abruptly. However, as Margot digs into her mom's past to solve The Last Story of Mina Lee, readers will see the importance of family, forgiveness, communication, and perseverance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mother-daughter relationships which can be fraught with tension and strong bonds. Do any of the conflicts in The Last Story of Mina Lee sound familiar to you?

  • Reconciling two different cultures can be challenging for the children of immigrants. Do you have any personal experience with this issue?  How do you think a person can find harmony between the culture of your family heritage and the culture of the place you're living in?

  • How do the characters demonstrate communication and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Asian and immigrant stories

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