September brought with it two different book club books to read: The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim and The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani. Mina Lee was the featured read of Reese’s Reads and the Book of the Month Club. The Storyteller’s Secret was the featured read for Jen Hatmaker’s book club.
I’m pretty sure these clubs are all in cahoots with each other because both of these stories were of women who faced personal devastation and went on to work to discover their mother’s/grandmother’s secret life stories. Stories of strong women working through the stories that silently informed their lives? Sign me up.
First, The Last Story of Mina Lee toggles between Margot, the daughter, and Mina, the mom. Margot has travelled from Seattle to visit her mom in Koreatown LA because she hasn’t been answering the phone. She discovers her mother, dead, in her apartment. The mystery that ensues is not so much how/why she died, but how her mother lived, unravelling the stories of her mother that she never knew.
Then, The Storyteller’s Secret finds Jaya in a crumbling marriage after a third miscarriage. Against her mother’s wishes, she travels to India to meet family she’s never known, discovering she’s too late. Instead, she meets and befriends Ravi, her grandmother’s faithful servant who reveals to her the secrets of her grandmother’s story which explains her mother’s aloofness.
Both these stories feature the lives of strong women who make life-changing decisions. Both are set in settings that are far from my experience: the immigrant experience of Koreatown and life in colonial India. And lots of delicious food.
The dining experiences written in Mina Lee remind me of a Korean restaurant I went to in San Francisco. I may have been honestly tempted to make and eat some kimchi while reading.
In the Storyteller’s Secret, there is also a good deal of food, but more picturesque for me were two things: the garden and the celebration of Holi. Bright, colorful, alluring.
These two books are different. What they have in common is Strong women. Women discovering their histories, strong women choosing to live in the midst of heartache and strong women growing because of their discoveries.
What’s on tap for October…
Nice White People: This is a podcast that my book club is listening to for the month of October. It explores problems in public education. That’s a super simple way to put it, but you should just listen.