Thank you to Pamela Dorman Books, Penguin Viking, and Netgalley for an early review copy of Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee, which will publish January 16, 2018. All thoughts are my own.
From the publisher:
Two sisters- Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the headstrong, unpredictable one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts hearing voices, it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister. But Lucia impetuously plows ahead, marrying a bighearted, older man only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She moves her new family from the States to Ecuador and back again, but the bitter constant is that she is, in fact, mentally ill. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until, inevitably, she crashes to earth.
Miranda leaves her own self-contained life in Switzerland to rescue her sister again- but only Lucia can decide whether she wants to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans- but what does it take to break them?
Told in alternating points of view, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, the story of a young woman’s quest to find fulfillment and a life unconstrained by her illness. But it’s also an unforgettable, gut-wrenching story of the sacrifices we make to truly love someone- and when loyalty to one’s self must prevail over all.
Everything Here is Beautiful is simply a beautiful book, inside and out. Mira T. Lee writes with a style reminiscent of Celeste Ng and Hanya Yanagihara; she clearly knows how to craft a story. The book is told from multiple points of view, including the two sisters, Miranda and Lucia, as well as Lucia’s husband Yonah and later her boyfriend Manuel. Lee changes her writing style according to the character- she jumps from short, abrupt sentences, to long, flowery ones. She even changes between first and third person at several points during the novel, which is a pet peeve of mine and normally seems too stylistic, but here it’s smooth and successful.
At its heart, Everything Here is Beautiful is about the sisterhood between Miranda, the hardworking and reliable older sister, who is seven years senior to her younger counterpart Lucia, the energetic, enigmatic one of the pair. Miranda has always acted as Lucia’s caretaker, from their immigration to America to their mother’s death to Lucia’s battle with mental illness; Miranda feels haunted by the promise she made to her mother before she died, that she would always look after her baby sister. In a way, Lucia almost resents Miranda for this, and the seemingly perfect life she has with her husband in Switzerland. It’s a complicated relationship, both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.
Mira T. Lee’s debut novel Everything Here is Beautiful is eye-opening, introspective, and moving. The portrayal of Lucia’s illness, a complicated combination of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and manic disorder, is alarmingly accurate, and Lee handles mental illness as a real health problem without being too preachy. The themes of sisterhood and mental illness lie at the forefront of the story, but Everything Here is Beautiful is also about immigration and the struggle to obtain a green card in America. With these major themes, Lee packs a lot into one novel, but it never seems like too much.
Mira T. Lee is definitely an author to look out for, as Everything Here is Beautiful might just make my 2018 favorites list!