Review: Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

I haven’t read a lot of books about mental illness, or books where mental illness is a predominant theme. I also have not read a lot of Asian literature, so needless to say, this book is way out of my comfort zone.

This book focuses on two Chinese sisters, one with mental illness. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more books outside my comfort zone, so I thought this book might be a good place to start.

I originally passed on the hard copy debut as I couldn’t fit it in my review schedule, but now with the paperback being released, I didn’t want to miss out on a book that sounded so promising. 

Summary

Two Chinese-American 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 Lucia starts hearing voices, it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister. Lucia impetuously plows ahead, 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?

Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, an immigrant story, and 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 (summary from Goodreads).

Review

I was initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to relate to any of the characters in this book. I know a lot of people and their families are touched in very personal ways by someone with mental illness, and of course my family is no different. My sister has pretty severe OCD, but she developed this condition later in life and does not live near me at all.

So there was a part of me that worried that because I didn’t really have a lot of experience with mental illness, that maybe I would be unable to relate to some of the characters or situations in the book. There is also a cultural element that continued to make me fear my expectations might not meet the reality.

This book is slow, it wasn’t a book that hit the ground running or one that really picked up as it went along. But the story itself is heartbreaking and beautiful all at once which makes it worth the slow reading. This was a very real and very honest book that addresses a difficult situation. Readers should have a Kleenex handy because there were moments of heartfelt agony which threatened an ugly cry.

Like the cover suggests, it started as a little cocoon and bloomed into a beautiful butterfly. This is a book that you will want to slow down and savor the little nuances of the characters and prose.

For me, it was a 4 star book. I didn’t love the alternating POVs. I thought it could have been equally as powerful to let the reader see the story unfold in the third person but this is a minor preference, in the grand scheme of things this was an excellent read.

 Book Info and Rating

Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Penguin Books (first published January 16th 2018)
ISBN 0735221979 (ISBN13: 9780735221970)
Free review copy provided by: Penguin Random House Publishing in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: contempo lit, literary fiction

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