I am slowly working my way through my backlog of Book Forest Crate books, and it’s a little bittersweet as Bonnie closed up shop this month to pursue her university dreams! Which is both amazing and a little bit sad as it means my bi-monthly boxes of joy are no more!
This beautiful book by Mira T Lee was the book included in the Kaleidoscope box, which also came with an adorable pom pom garland, a delicious smelling bath bomb, a mandala to colour in, and some petunia seeds to plant (along with a few other bits and pieces).
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.
Blurb from Goodreads.
The thing I perhaps loved most about this book was reading about Miranda & Lucia’s relationship and how it evolved and changed over time. Initially the pet names they had for each other confused me a little bit, but once I got my head around who was who, I loved reading about their younger years with their Mum, and struggled emotionally with them as they grappled with the realities of maintaining a strong bond through the ups and downs of living with a mental illness.
But it’s not only family relationships Lee explores in Everything Here is Beautiful, as she has written a story that weaves together themes of infidelity, family relationships, marriage, immigration, cancer, and parenthood, though definitely the most prominent focus is on the exploration of psychotic episodes and mental illness, and the ways it can change the relationships we have, whether they are with a sibling, lover, husband, or daughter.
Getting to read this story from differing perspectives helped dig deeper into the illness Lucia suffers from, which is never able to be defined by doctors in the book (they think it’s either Bipolar or Schizophrenia), and I guess the underlying message is that mental illness doesn’t define a person. Lucia is an intelligent, creative, bubbly character with dreams of having children and the desire to continue her writing career, and yet her illness makes motherhood difficult (and pretty scary to read at times), and prevents her from finding employment in a lot of places.
It’s an emotional and tender novel, and though I did find that the storytelling was more compelling in some parts (and voices) than others, overall I found it a satisfying and interesting read. Be warned, it is pretty heartbreaking at times!
Verdict: An insightful and emotional read, worth picking up!
Page Length: 368
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (Penguin Imprint)
What are some themes you like exploring through fiction books?
I love reading about complicated relationships, and in case you couldn’t tell I appreciated the detailed look at mental illness in Everything Here is Beautiful as I don’t have much first-hand experience with the kind Lucia lives with.