Sunday, February 24, 2019

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

It took me a long time to read this novel. Not because it wasn't interesting, or well written, because it was both of those things. It was hard to read because of the subject matter. I found it to be powerful, haunting, and heartbreaking. 

Two sisters, Miranda and Lucia Bok, came to America from China with their mother after their father was killed in a car accident. Struggling to raise a young daughter and an infant (Lucia), their mother endured many tough years. Miranda and Lucia--both very smart, gifted young women. Except one day, Lucia begins to hear voices, and their lives are forever changed by mental illness. 

The story of the Bok sisters is one of love, anger, hope, anguish, and regret. Lucia's life is all over the map: she meets Yonah, marries him, and seems pretty stable for quite some time. He is the love of her life. And yet, she breaks down, and that begins the long cycle of highs and lows as she battles schizophrenia; her reluctance to take medication that will stabilize her, and her desire to live a life free from the restraints of pills. Lucia's life takes her to Ecuador, where she lives a very rural life with her partner Manny and their daughter Essy. Still yearning for Yonah (whom she leaves and divorces after an episode), she's never happy. Her relationship with Manny is always on the edge, as he struggles to keep her healthy, all the while dreaming of another woman and the life they could have had together. 

Miranda, a successful businesswoman, lives in Switzerland with her husband. She struggles so much over the years to be the strong one, and to take care of her sister. The emotional baggage between Lucia and Miranda is intense, and the guilt Miranda feels over Lucia is never ending. Their relationship is the backbone of this novel, and it's heartbreaking to read. At what point do you live your life for yourself, and stop giving it all to someone else? Culture also has a lot of impact in Miranda and Lucia's lives; so many cultures in this novel and how they see mental illness: Chinese, Ecuadorian, American, Swiss. 

This is a powerful novel about mental illness; the toll it takes on family, friends, and the person who suffers from mental illness. How to reconcile the person you knew before with the person they have become. This would make a very good book group discussion. There is a lot to this novel, and it is not something you should read quickly. Take your time with it. 

A big thank you to Penguin Books for providing a copy to review. 

Rating: 5/6 for an intense novel about two sisters and their journey through mental illness. It is a journey full of love, heartbreak, loss, grief, understanding, and acceptance. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook. 

1 comment :

  1. I had this novel for awhile, but it was so intense that I couldn't finish it.